Easy Mac and Cheese

My sweet friend Sam was telling me a while ago that  she made mac and cheese from the box for dinner. That just made me sad, because real mac and cheese isn’t much harder (or slower) to make. There’s just one catch – I don’t bake mine. I boil the pasta while I’m making the sauce, throw it all together and call it good. Blasphemous? Maybe. But it beats the blue every time. Assuming you have the garlic and onion chopped (or are a fast chopper) you can make the sauce in the time it take to cook the pasta. You’ll need:

2 T butter/margarine
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 T flour
3/4 – 1 C milk
2-3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb pasta, any short cut

Put a large pot of water on to boil. (Covering the pot helps it go faster.)

While you wait, pre-heat a larger skillet over medium/medium high heat.

Put your butter in the skillet to warm up and melt.

Chop your onion and garlic.

Saute your onion and garlic in the butter for a few minutes – until you can smell it really well.

Make sure you stir frequently, so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Once the smell hits you as amazing, add your flour. Stir into the butter and cook for a minute or so, until the flour starts to turn golden. This is called making a roux, and will thicken your sauce. Want a thicker sauce? Add more butter and flour – the mixture is just equal parts of each.

Whisk in your milk. I use skim, honestly – you can use whatever. Don’t feel like you have to make a special trip. Let it come to a boil and go for a minute, just to see how thick it gets. Too thick? Add more milk. (If it’s too thin, just boil until it thickens up more – or add more cheese. 🙂

At some point in here, your water will come to a boil. Add your pasta, boil until almost done. (It will cook a couple of minutes in the cheese sauce, so you want to cook until just before it’s done the way you like it – whatever that is. I like my pasta with a bite. Some people like mushy pasta. Totally your call.)

So, back to the sauce. Toss in your cheese, handful by handful, whisking until melted.

Once the pasta is done, drain. Don’t rinse – just add straight to the skillet. Mix to combine and let it all cook together for a few minuets.

That’s it! Salt and pepper to taste and serve it up!

You can definitely customize this dish. Want low fat? Use margarine, skim milk and 2% cheese. Or, skip the roux and use leftover butternut squash (puree or in soup form) as the base, and add cheese to taste. Not the same flavor, but still good. You can add in spinach, cooked broccoli, different cheeses – it’s really up to you. You could even put into a 9×13 pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs/a little olive oil and put under your broiler, if you really love that crust. Me? I’d rather have more cheese. 😉

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