I'm a firm believer that comfort food is better than a hug. Whenever I'm feeling down, in need of a pick-me-up or just need to "lean in" to the dark, grey weather, my mind goes to comfort food for an emotional hug. That's a thing, right? Ok, cool.
If you ask me, there's no other food in the world that screams comfort food quite like mac and cheese. And I'm not even a mac and cheese snob – I am down for any and all varieties of cheesy noods. Be it the classic, guilty pleasure Kraft variety, Annie's white cheddar shells or even the super guilty pleasure Velveeta shells, I'm always in for cheesy, ooey, gooey goodness. But what hits the spot even more than the boxed variety, even if they are supes tasty and easy if you're feeling lazy, is making your own stovetop version from scratch.
Just hearing the words "from scratch" might make this sound rather daunting, I know. But I'm here to assure you that there is probably no easier task than making an impressive homemade mac and cheese. If you can boil water and add milk, butter and contents of a sauce packet to some noodles, then you're pretty much capable of making heavenly, scratch-made mac and cheese.
Once I learned the secret of how easy and simple making homemade mac and cheese is, I was hooked. In fact, I've been making my own homemade mac and cheese for years, like this melty, buttery, crunchy baked mac and cheese with roasted hatch chiles. But when my last mac and cheese craving hit – because when a mac and cheese craving hits, it hits hard – I knew I wanted to make the ultimate, creamy, dreamy mac and cheese using the best, most efficient method out there.
And if you've been following my blog, you know that there are only a handful of trusty experts out there I turn to for inspiration. One of the greats who most always has the best of the best method for making anything your heart desires is Kenzi Lopez-Alt, author of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Food Lab. It turns out, Kenji opened my eyes completely on how to make the best, creamy stovetop mac and cheese. While I usually tend to make a butter and flour based cheese sauce, Kenji suggests replicating the boxed mac and cheese approach by adding grated cheese tossed with corn starch for tightening directly to the noods in addition to an egg and milk mixture that somewhat mimics the milk you would normally add. It's so surprisingly straightforward, I can't believe I hadn't thought of trying out this method before!
So taking Kenji's lead, I tried this approach and wowza did I hit the mac and cheese jackpot. I not only achieved the creamiest, cheesiest, most decadent mac and cheese I had been fantasizing about, but I managed to whip it together in record time with the most foolproof method. What was even more surprising was that despite how much cheese and butter were in it because, spoiler alert, this is in no way, shape or form "health food", the sauce was actually light and airy as can be.
And if you really want to feel like you're achieving balance with this most perfect mac and cheese, I highly recommend serving it with my blasted broccoli on top. Because if there's some sort of green on top, then it's healthy-ish, right?! But seriously, broccoli + mac and cheese > mac and cheese without broccoli. True story.
If you're having a mac and cheese craving as intense as I had and, let's be honest, you're probably having one now just by reading this, you just have to try out this method for the easiest, creamiest, cheesiest mac and cheese you ever did taste. It's like a hug in a bowl.
Adapted from J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt's Ultra-Gooey Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 16 oz sharp cheddar, grated
- 8 oz melty cheese, grated – like jack, American or mozzarella
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 stick butter
Boil a large pot of boiling water. Before adding pasta, salt the water generously, about a small handful of salt. Add pasta to water and cook for 8 minutes, until al dente.
Meanwhile, whisk evaporated milk, eggs, mustard and hot sauce together in a medium bowl until homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch with grated cheeses gently with fingers. Set aside.
Drain pasta and return to pot. Turn heat on low and add butter to pasta, stirring until melted and well combined. Slowly add cheese and milk mixtures and stir until well combined and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to your desire. Serve immediately with roasted broccoli on the side – do it!