DIY: Homemade mac and cheese
It’s tempting to reach for that box in the cabinet that promises quick and cheesy pasta, but sometimes the boxed method of mac and cheese just doesn’t cut it. Instead, try thinking outside of the box with this yummy take on mac and cheese.
1 pound penne pasta (Cavatappi works well too)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
One-half onion diced
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1 cup cheddar Cheese
One-half cup mozzarella cheese
1 small can evaporated milk
1 roll Ritz crackers
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Large pasta pot
Large sauce pan
Small bowl (for melting butter)
Large Ziploc bag
13 x 9 inch baking dish
Butter the baking dish, set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To begin, boil water in the large pasta pot. Once the water has come to a rolling boil add the penne and about 1 tablespoon of salt. This is the only chance to keep the pasta from getting bland. Cook for 8 – 9 minutes or until al dente. Strain. The pasta should not be mushy—it should have a bite to it—as it will go in the oven later. Pour the pasta into the buttered baking dish.
In the large Ziploc bag mash the crackers until they are crumbs. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese. The simplest way to mix everything into the crackers is to add it into the bag, zip it up, and then shake it thoroughly.
While the pasta cooks, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the diced onion and cook until soft. Once the onion is soft, it will look slightly translucent. Add the flour and cayenne pepper, and then stir. The mixture should clump together. Add the can of evaporated milk along with the regular milk. Whisk. This will thin the mixture out.
Add the cheeses to the milk and onion mixture. Stir together while they melt. If the cheese gets rubbery, add some of the pasta water. The water will thin out the sauce, but the starches from the pasta should keep it from getting runny. The sauce will have a thick consistency but should be easily stirred. The consistency is akin to a cream soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta in the baking dish, distributing evenly. Sprinkle the Ritz crackers over the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until it is bubbly and the crackers are toasted.
Remove from the oven and enjoy!
If regular mac and cheese is too boring, add different things to mix it up. Add shredded meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken to make roasted-chicken mac. To do this, add 2 stalks of chopped celery to the onion and add the chicken when the pasta is transferred to the baking dish. Browned ground beef with taco seasoning can turn the meal into taco mac. Or try ham and chopped red pepper to create a brighter and heartier flavor.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana Faria at Ana.firstname.lastname@example.org.