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Homemade Basic Macaroni and Cheese

I had long assumed I didn't like macaroni and cheese because I had associated it with that bright orange Kraft Mac n Cheese stuff. Plus I didn't really care for cheese until my 20s. But then I had some of Annie's Shells and Cheese and liked that a lot. Years later, it finally occurs to me to try making the macaroni & cheese recipe listed on the back of this box of pasta. I adapted it to use half as much butter and cheese. Does that bring it into the neighborhood of being healthy? I hope so because I liked how this tasted and I still have more elbows pasta in the cupboard.

Although this is an old standard, it's new to me so it's on my list for 50 new recipes for 2006. Come join the fun!

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Macaroni & Cheese
(makes 4 to 6 servings)
1/2 (1-pound) package of Elbows pasta
3 tablespoons margarine or butter [I used 1 Tbsp. butter]
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour [I used 2 Tbsp. since I had reduced the amount of butter.]
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese [I used 1 cup cheese]
1/2 cup bread crumbs

  1. Cook elbows as package directs; drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour.
  4. Gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until sauce thickens. [This took a while; probably because I used less butter and flour than called for. Michael stirred, saying it's important not to scorch the milk, while I shredded cheese and minced the onion.]
  5. Stir in salt and pepper.
  6. Add onion and cheese; stir until cheese melts.
  7. Combine cheese sauce and elbows. Spoon into greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.
  8. Bake 30 minutes. We baked and waited the 30 minutes but what does the baking step provide? Seems like it would be fine to eat already without needing to bake it first.

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Edited to add another picture where I added about 5 oz of torn fresh spinach to the milk mixture after it had thickened after the suggestion by jazzbird. Also used panko bread crumbs on top (as suggested by gottacook and sparkymonster and ullrsawah) Yum!
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I don't know if this is an English thing, but I remember Mac and cheese in England was always baked with a layer of cheese, so it had a crispy top to it.

Hey while I'm here, my Dad use to make this chicken pie. It had cambells chicken soup in it and it had a flaky pasty top, other than that I cant remember what else was in it, chicken obviously and I think carrots. Ever come across anything like that? or want to experiment?

I saw a few recipes online that added a layer of cheese on top too but I left it out because a) I just wanted to try the simpler back-of-the-box recipe first and b) I'm trying to learn to cook lower-fat meals. I poked around the Campbell's website and saw a recipe for Easy Chicken Pot Pie. Is that it? They even have a link to a video showing them making it.

Wow your faster than Google! that certainly looks like it. Although my Dad would have probably had to modify it as I had an aversion to vegetables as a kid and no one could get me to eat them.

and other times it'll take weeks for me to respond to comments ;)
Here's another one (pretty much the same) that I found when I googled:

To have a crispy top, bread crumbs or panko is nice. Cooks ILlustrated makes a DELICIOUS madly fatty version that I think they made more low fat some place.

The baking makes the pasta and cheese fuse and gets teh crispy top. There is stove top mac & cheese too which is what I usually make. Check Alton Brown's version on the Food Network website.

You're the second person to recommend the panko bread crumbs. I'll have to try that next time. Does the stove top version get crisp on top too? I liked that. I'll look for Alton Brown's recipe. Thanks!

Stove top Mac & Cheese is all gooey and no crispy, which is fine for me. You could put a serving in an ovenproof dish and broil the top, but omg I am so lazy I do not bother

yeah I can see skipping the baking step in the future. Thanks again.

Macaroni and cheese! I think I've used the same recipe you posted and found that it satisfies winter comfort food cravings very nicely. I saw a pair of recipes on the NY Times site that accompanied an article about a purist's idea of mac and cheese; the writer seemed to think that adding cheese to a roux was akin to blasphemy. I've found that it was a great way to reduce cholesterol and fat without the odd aftertaste of low fat cheese but I am also looking forward to trying out very small portions of the version I found in the NYT.

Oh but if it's macaroni and cheese, isn't cheese going to be introduced as an awfully important component? And just to check if I have my terms right..
roux = butter and flour
bechamel = roux + milk
then add the shredded cheese, onion, salt & pepper to the bechamel?

Yep, you're right about bechamel. I got my terms wrong.

(Deleted comment)
I think it's so cool that you're home with a kitchen. Cheers!

I made a similar version a while back, but used panko bread crumbs and it was amazing!

cool...definitely trying panko bread crumbs next time.

Wow, I use about three times as much as the original recipe for mine... 8 oz of cheddar, 8 oz of gouda, and 8 oz of edam or jalepeno jack. Is it actually cheesey enough with just a cup of cheese?

1.5 pounds of cheese? For half a pound of pasta? Or maybe your version uses the whole box of pasta? This was cheesy enough to be clearly cheese but not cheesy enough to taste decadent. I like cheese but I don't Love cheese (I've still not developed a taste for things like cheese string or cheese bites. I'll eat them but think that they're a little too cheesy.)

I think it's a pound and a half of cheese to 2 or 3 cups of pasta. Generally you just measure out as much pasta as you want and then mix it with the cheese. I usually end up making a full 9x9 pan.

Mine just about fills a 9x9 pan too (it has maybe a half-an-inch of space at the top) and it seems plenty cheesy to me. I just need enough cheese to be be apparent. I was never a fan of things like extra cheesy pizzas. That being said, I think I'll try mixing in different kinds of cheese next time. Thanks!

Hi ! I saw your post on teh cookign community .. mind if I add you ?

I have a recipe journal aswell .. it's all low fat stuff as I modify my recipes to be weight watchers friendly ... but they taste like full fat stuff !

check it out if you like ...

skichik_ww but I use this journal on a more daily basis !

Oh nice...I'm trying to eat healthier this year but have no patience for counting points so I'd love to follow along in your journal since you'll be featuring healthy recipes. Thanks!

I've never thought to make it myself...i might do just that...maybe even throw in a can of tuna. yup.

I hadn't either! Now I think I'll keep the box versions in the cupboard for nights when we're in a hurry.

Can this be made w/o the bread crumbs?

I'm sure it could. A quick web search turned up several macaroni and cheese recipes that didn't involve a layer of bread crumbs on top. I had not had mac-n-cheese with bread crumbs before trying this recipe but now I really like it this way.

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