Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Foodie on a Budget- Easy Cheesy Stove Top Mac 'n Cheese

Monday night was barbecued chicken thighs with roasted new potatoes.  Nothing too fancy.  The husband doctored up some bottled BBQ sauce.  I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.  Near the end of the cooking time, I tossed in some fresh parsley from my herb garden.

And Tuesday evening was creamy, cheesy mac 'n cheese.  From scratch.  Not to toot my own horn, but this was actually THE BEST mac 'n cheese I have ever made from scratch.  I have tried a couple of those one pot mac 'n cheese recipes.  You know, where you boil the macaroni in milk instead of pre-boiling it?  Have you ever tried that?  It takes FOREVER to cook the pasta that way.  Forever.  
I still kept this one pot.  I boiled and cooked the macaroni first, drained it in a colander, and used the same pot to make the cheese sauce.
I have to say I think the difference in my mac 'n cheese recipe versus others that I have tried is that I did not use regular milk in my cheese sauce.  I used evaporated milk instead.  I had it leftover from making a batch of My Secret Ingredient Brownies, and thought why not?

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What you will need:
2 cups of dry macaroni (or shells, or another small pasta shape)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg (or paprika if you are not a fan of nutmeg)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (You could use a different cheese instead. Use what you have on hand.)
1 cup of pasta water, reserved
Salt, to taste

First things, first.  Boil the pasta and cook it until tender.  Drain the macaroni in a colander, but be sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.  Set the drained macaroni aside.

While the macaroni is cooking, whisk together the flour, dry mustard, nutmeg (or paprika), and black pepper in a small bowl.
Using the same pot you used to boil the macaroni, melt the butter over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour mixture.  Keep whisking for a few minutes to form a roux.  This is what will make your cheese sauce thicker, and will season it.  Next pour in the evaporated milk, whisking as you pour.  Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking often.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.  

Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the shredded cheese.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  At this point, if your sauce is overly thick whisk in some of the pasta water you saved to loosen it up a bit.  Taste your sauce, and add salt if needed.

Now mix in your cooked pasta and voila! Easy, cheesy stove top mac 'n cheese. :)

This recipe makes enough for about 4-5 servings.  Since there were only the two of us this week, this meant leftovers for lunch the next day! ;)  I have to be honest.  This was the first time I have ever heated up leftover mac 'n cheese and it was almost better the next day.  Usually reheated mac 'n cheese is thick, glumpy.  Not this mac 'n cheese.  It reheated nice and creamy.  I am going to have to attribute that to the use of evaporated milk in lieu of regular milk.