It’s been a busy week. Like, crazy busy. We are swamped at work, and my girls had cheer camp which I have to be at with them because I am the cheer coordinator for our area. Dinners have been rough. But last night, not only did we get a great dinner….we got a little friendly competition too.
The girls wanted macaroni and cheese. My husband pulled out a box. I said “wait, I can make homemade mac and cheese super quick, and it will taste way better.” He said “no way. You can’t make homemade mac and cheese as fast as I can make a boxed mac and cheese.” Game on. We actually competed against each other and made our respective mac and cheeses right next to each other. Spoiler alert….we tied. But I guarantee, homemade tastes better and guess what…you can pronounce everything in it!
Yep, I said it. I think my mac and cheese tastes better than what comes out of a box. It is creamier and cheesier! I boil macaroni and then mix it with a creamy cheese sauce that started with a béchamel. I even top it with crunchy bread crumbs! Can you believe I can make it just as fast as a box mac and cheese?
To start, we both got our pots of water on to boil for noodles. I salted my water, but I don’t think Chris did. After Chris turned on the heat under his pot, he went and sat down….and I got to work.
I melted butter in a smaller pot, and whisked in an equal amount of flour. I let this cook for a minute to cook out the raw flower taste. Then, I whisked in some milk and some chicken broth. You could totally use all milk, but I like to lighten it up a bit with chicken broth and low fat milk.
This sauce is called a béchamel, which is a “mother sauce”. That just means that it is a base to many other different sauces. It is a fancy term for a cream sauce, basically.
So during this time, our water came to a boil and we both added our noodles in to boil. I also put a baking sheet covered in a single layer of panko bread crumbs, salt, pepper and drizzled with olive oil under the broiler.
As the milk comes to a boil, which only takes a few minutes, it will thicken. Once it has thickened, (which is amazing, btw….truly scientific) you can whisk in your cheese! I usually use sharp cheddar and asiago cheese, but the combinations are endless. The cheese will melt right into the sauce.
Update: our noodles are boiling away. Chris is sitting down again, but I am up because I want to add frozen peas in with my noodles in during the last two minutes of cooking time.
I also whisk in salt, pepper and a tad bit of dry mustard. Once the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, it’s done!
Beep! Timer goes off and we both drain our noodles. I stir my drained noodles right into my sauce pot filled with glorious cheese sauce. I’m ready to serve, I just need to sprinkle my mac and cheese with my toasty bread crumbs.
Chris is busily stirring his orange powdered cheese, butter and milk into his pot…..
I call it a tie on time. Flavor is a whole ‘nother story. My noodles are bathed in a super creamy, cheesy sauce. It is chock full of peas and topped with bread crumbs. What could be better than that?
I think I proved that I can make homemade mac and cheese in the same amount of time it would take you to make a boxed mac and cheese. Don’t you think your family would rather have homemade? You have time! I promise!
Feeling like you want your mac and cheese a little more “grown-up”? Try Gouda and Swiss, blue and goat, or brie and fontina! Imagine the possibilities!
Weeknight Mac and Cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or shells
2 cups frozen peas
For bread crumbs:
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup asiago cheese
For bread crumbs:
Pre heat broiler. Spread bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil until browned, about 2 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt to boiling water. Boil macaroni according to package directions. When macaroni has 2 minutes left, add frozen peas.
Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium, heat for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk. Bring sauce to a boil.
Once sauce is boiling, whisk in remaining salt, pepper and dry mustard. Add cheeses and whisk well.
Mix drained noodles and peas with cheese sauce. Top with bread crumbs for serving.