Sadly, when we think Mac & Cheese, we often think of Kraft Mac & Cheese. While children seem to love it, one wonders what exactly is that suspicious orange “cheese” and multitude of ingredients that hearken one back to high school chemistry.
Macaroni and cheese is a kid favorite, but I refused to buy the boxed-kind, laden with excess salt and orange stuff that’s supposed to be cheese. Instead, I only served them homemade MAC & CHEESE. Of course, the best laid plans went by the wayside when they started eating at their friends’ houses and noticed the difference. They still ate mine, but wouldn’t hesitate to inhale the other, given a chance.
Well, we moms have to be sneaky sometimes (it’s for their own good…they’ll thank us later). I found a Macaroni & Cheese recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that is very similar to the boxed kind. If you leave off the bread crumb topping, you may be able to pass it off – just keep an empty box around as a decoy to sit on the counter when you’re serving it.
NOTE: Don’t buy pre-sliced American cheese unless you absolutely have to. Many stores have a working deli section where they make sandwiches. They’ll probably have a large block of American cheese – both the orange and yellow kind taste fine. Don’t let them slice it, since you’ll want to shred it – tell them to cut about a 3/4 ” block (3¼ oz).
ONE-POT MAC & CHEESE
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 lb small elbow macaroni
- 1 cup (3¼ oz) deli cut American cheese (either yellow or orange), shredded
- 1 cup (2½ oz) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- optional topping: 1/3 cup panko crumbs
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
In a saucepot, bring water and milk to the boil. Add in pasta and bring to a simmer. Maintaining the simmer, cook uncovered until pasta is just past the al dente stage – about 6 minutes. While pot is still on low heat, stir in American cheese, Dijon and cayenne. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar. Cover pot and let melt together. Taste for seasoning. If you want to make the bread crumb topping, toast the panko, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small skillet until browned. (Keep an eye on it – it only takes a couple of minutes.) Remove from heat and mix in the Parmesan.