An easy-to-make version of the cheesy pasta dish loved by the whole family!
I loved macaroni and cheese as a child… the nuclear orange, comes-in-a-box variety. So when I devised this dish, I wanted to emulate the ease of the ready meal, without the accompanying chemicals, preservatives and colouring. After some experimenting, I found that using cream cheese as a thickener for the sauce, rather than a roux, worked quite well and allowed me to make the dish all in one pot. Perfect for a quick weekday dinner.
This dish is quite dairy-heavy, so I’m afraid that there will be no hiding from the calories here and it is not suitable for people who are lactose-intolerant. On the other hand, it is a fantastic way to get milk and cheese and subsequently, calcium, into little bodies. Both my boys will cheer loudly and sometimes break into a little dance when told that dinner is macaroni and cheese!
I usually make a large portion, either for the whole family, or to apportion into various single-sized portions that can be frozen for future dinners*.
serves 4-6 adults
3 cups of short pasta (I use De Cecco’s chifferi rigati as it’s bite-sized and is hollow, making it the perfect secret hideout for cheese sauce)
1 and a half cups of milk
180g cream cheese
200g grated cheddar
1/3 tsp of mustard powder (The slight sharpness cuts through the richness of this dish and makes it much more palatable)
Black pepper to taste
Breadcrumbs to cover before grilling
N.B: Add smoked salmon, ham, corn or peas to it for some delicious variations! Just use your imagination…. 🙂
1) Boil pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions.
2) When done, drain and return to pot.
3) Next, add milk, followed by cream cheese, mustard powder and black pepper. Stir over lowest heat until well combined.
4) Add grated cheddar and stir again. Stir until all the cheese has melted and combined well to make a creamy, oozy sauce that coats the pasta. If adding extras such as smoked salmon or ham, do so now and mix through.
5) Pour out pasta into a shallow pan/dish that is grill-proof**. Cover with a layer of breadcrumbs and place under grill until brown and crisp.
6) Cool and serve.
* While this method is great for saving time, it does not re-heat particularly well once grilled with breadcrumbs and cooled. Consequently, I usually freeze any extras as single-portions, without breadcrumbs as future emergency dinners.
** If freezing, this is the point at which you stop. Place in a dish that is both freezer-proof and oven-proof. Cool and freeze. To cook from frozen, cover with foil and place in a cool oven (set to 220c for convection oven and 200 for fan oven) and bake until piping hot (how long this takes depends on the size of the dish you use). Then add layer of breadcrumbs and grill as above.