Searching for an easy & delicious mac & cheese recipe is like searching for the holy grail. It took me years. You can find a lot of recipes that are pretty good – most of which call for flour as an ingredient to thicken the cheese sauce. The problem is that I can taste the flour and it sometimes makes a weird texture. I am in love with this recipe (no flour – happy dance) and I can’t wait for you to try it! Oh and did I mention that you make it all in one pot from start to finish? Yep! It’s so easy.
The key behind this recipe is that you put all your ingredients together from the start. So you don’t need flour to thicken your sauce. The pasta naturally releases starches when it cooks, acting as a thickening agent. When you make pasta in separate steps – making your sauce in one pan and cooking your pasta in water in another pan (then draining the water off the pasta) – you waste that natural starch.
All you need is a dutch oven or a large stainless steel pot. You’ll add all your ingredients to the same pot in various steps, cooking and stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan.
- 1# of pasta (variety of your choosing)
- 8 cups of milk (2% recommended)
- 3-4 Tablespoons of butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoning salt
- 3 cups of shredded cheese (your choice on variety)
- Cooked chicken or ham (optional)
(1) If you want to add a protein to your dish to serve as a main course in the evening, I like to precook that in the pot before I start the pasta dish. I put a Tablespoon or two of olive oil in the pot. Then add my chicken or ham until it is cooked through. I remove the protein from the pan and begin my one-pot pasta dish next, reserving the precooked meat off to the side in a bowl or on a cutting board. If you prefer, you can also bake or grill your protein separately but with my way – no extra dishes!
(2) Start by adding your dry, uncooked pasta with your milk, butter and salt in a medium stockpot or dutch oven. Turn your heat on medium-high and stir to incorporate the ingredients together.
(3) Continue cooking on medium-high until your pasta is cooked al dente (cooked through but firm to the bite), being cautious not to overcook your pasta. Your pasta will soften slightly after you turn off the heat because it will remain in boiling liquid until you serve it. You don’t want your pasta to be one pile of mush – unless that’s your jam. Then knock yourself out.
(4) Once your pasta is done, turn your burner off. If you’re cooking with a glass-top stove, remove from heat completely. Gradually add your cheese to your mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to allow each 1/2 cup to melt completely before adding more.
(5) Add any cooked meat or protein source you want (which is optional). Then serve & enjoy. You’re done!
The fun thing about this easy & delicious mac & cheese recipe is that you can tailor it to your likes. The pound of pasta you use can be a corkscrew pasta, a traditional macaroni, or whatever your preference of is for pasta. The cheese can be cheddar, mozzarella, a tricolor blend, or a Swiss cheese (which goes great with ham).
Health Tip – Last but not least, you can adjust the fat content by cooking with your milk of choice. If you are health conscious because heart disease runs in your family or you have high cholesterol, you may wish to use a skim or 1% milk. We have five growing boys so we tend to cook with 2% or whole milk to give the boys some meat on their bones.
Not only can you tailor this recipe to your likes and dislikes, but you can vary the way you make it. Classic recipes that you make frequently can get boring. But with all the endless possibilities of this dish, by alternating proteins and cheeses, you can keep things interesting week to week!
I hope your family loves this easy & delicious mac & cheese recipe as much as ours does! Let me know what you think in the comments after you try it!