There hasn’t been much cooking going on this week – much of the past 10 days has been divvied between visits at two separate hospitals, driving between said hospitals, and queuing at their parkade exits. (Everyone is fine! Or will be. Don’t worry.) What I was supposed to be doing for the past 10 days was finishing up a book manuscript that’s due in Two! Weeks! Fortunately there has been enough to distract me from almost certain panic.
One silver lining: I’ve been using up all those containers of frozen this and that, most of it unlabeled, that I’ve squirreled away in the freezer. The other day I actually found, without effort, enough space to put a loaf of bread in the freezer, which around here constitutes a small miracle.
Some nights it has been a game of dinnertime Russian roulette, we’ve hit a couple drive thrus, and one day, having been present for the arrival of extra cheesy hospital food mac & cheese at lunchtime when I happened to be starving, the craving for that soft diner-style mac & cheese was still firmly planted at 5:00, so I decided to give a new mac & cheese method a go – another formula that doesn’t require the making of cheese sauce from scratch.
This version takes approximately two minutes longer than it takes to cook pasta – about as much time as it takes to add butter, milk and a cheese packet – and it’s done. No need to bother with baking. (Did you know if you set a wooden spoon on top of a pot of boiling pasta/potatoes, it won’t boil over?)
This mac & cheese method is pretty brilliant; as you boil the pasta, you blitz grated cheese, milk, and a couple spoonfuls of flour in the food processor.
This cheesy mulch gets poured over the freshly cooked, drained pasta, and the lot is returned to the stovetop and stirred. As the cheese melts, the mixture comes to a boil (quickly, since the pasta starts out so hot) and the sauce thickens right there in the pot, on account of those spoonfuls of flour you added. It thickens and gets all saucy and coats the pasta, all at once. Brilliant, no?
And that’s it, your from-scratch mac & cheese is finished. This, I think, should be sent out as a PSA to all parents of kids who love pasta with cheese – which is, I think, all of them.
(Tired grown-ups, too.)
One Pot Mac & Cheese
1/2 lb macaroni or other small pasta
3 cups grated old cheddar cheese (or use Gouda, or a combination)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grainy mustard (optional)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package directions, or until tender but slightly firm to bite (not mushy).
While the pasta cooks, combine the cheese, milk, flour, mustard (if you’re using it), salt and pepper in a blender or food processor, and pulse until well blended.
When the pasta is ready, drain it well and return it to the pot. Add the cheese mixture and stir over medium heat for a few minutes, until it bubbles and turns in to cheese sauce. (Letting it bubble will ensure it reaches its maximum thickening potential, and will get rid of any floury texture.) Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.