If you don't love mac & cheese, I don't think we can be friends. It is, in my opinion, the ultimate comfort food and it is a dish everyone loves, from young kids to grandmas and grandpas. I'll eat mac & cheese in any season -- a warm, comforting meal on a chilly winter day or topped with my favorite bbq meat in the summer. It also can be so basic an approachable (like the recipe below), or you can use the basic recipe and really dress it up to make it really special with different types of cheese and mixing in decadent extras like roasted mushrooms, chicken, crab, or lobster!
I absolutely love this recipe because it all comes together in 1 big pot, there is no flour to make a roux thanks to a secret ingredient (but I promise you, it is so thick and creamy) and it's ready from the stovetop - no oven baking needed. The no roux and no baking may be controversial to some, but I find this recipe makes for the smoothest cheese mixture and nothing dries out from baking in the oven. It also uses a small amount of processed cheese and I am making no apologies for it. There is no substitute for the consistency it creates and it only takes a little bit to achieve that gooey, yummy texture we all crave. If you really are against Velveeta, then leave it out and add more of a melty cheese like Monterey jack or fontina.
No matter how you have it -- basic or with all the frills -- mac & cheese will always been one of my favorites. And this recipe will surely be your go-to for homemade comfort!
Slo's Creamy Mac & Cheese
(Makes ~ 8-12 servings)
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes
1 lb. box of your favorite short cut pasta (ie: elbow macaroni)
2 TB butter
2 C. shredded cheddar cheese*
1 C. shredded Monterey jack cheese (or other great melting cheese like fontina)
6 oz. Velveeta block cheese, cubed
1 - 12oz. can of evaporated milk
1-2 C. half and half**
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, minus 1 minute of cooking time. Drain well and return to the pot.
Add the butter to the hot pasta and stir to coat the pasta.
Over low heat, add the evaporated milk and half of the shredded cheese to the pasta and stir until the cheese is mostly melted. Add the rest of the shredded cheese and 1 cup of half and half. Stir until the cheese is mostly melted.
Add the Velveeta and stir until everything is melted and creamy. It will seem too loose at first, but it will come together and thicken up. If it gets too thick, add more half and half.
Once the mac & cheese is to the consistency you want, turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste (~1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. of pepper)
To re-heat, add some half and half to the mac and cheese and heat over low heat in a sauce pan.
*Recipe notes + Variations*
*It is important to use block cheese here and shred it yourself. The pre-shredded cheese comes with anti-caking agents in it and will result in a lumpy (aka not super creamy) texture that you can't get rid of.
**The amount of half and half you'll need varies. Sometimes I end up needing close to 1.5 cups, but when I made it this time for photos, I only needed 1 cup. You'll want extra to re-heat too. If you're reheating just 1 serving, you'll only need a splash or two of half and half. If you're reheating a bunch, you'll need more. For reheating though, you can use any milk if you don't have anymore half and half (I have used skim milk and it works just fine.)
Change up the flavors with any mixture of cheese you want. A lot of times I sub out the monterey jack for fontina cheese which is an Italian cheese that melts soooo nicely and has a nice sharp flavor. It really amps up the whole dish. Other options are pepper jack, gouda, gruyere. The list is endless!
Get creative and add in some protein like grilled chicken, roasted mushrooms, leftover bbq (like pulled pork or brisket) and drizzle some buffalo sauce or bbq sauce over top!
This freezes really well. I like to freeze them in single-size portions in either tupperware or ziplock bags. Allow to thaw then reheat the same as described above.