Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Easiest baked macaroni and cheese


This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

I realize the “best” macaroni and cheese is very subjective because many people have differing opinions when it comes to consistency, flavors, cooking method, etc. But most people get excited about any version of homemade macaroni and cheese. And I think this version is absolutely delicious. 

This recipe is extra special because you don't have to boil the pasta ahead of time! This may seem like a simple step and not much of a shortcut, but as a new mom I know any amount of time-saver, whether it be for cooking time or dishwashing time, is a big deal!

I realize this isn't the correct culinary method for cooking macaroni and cheese, and I'm mildly concerned my chefs at school will be ashamed. But as of lately, easy recipes are the best recipes, and what's most important is that this recipe is downright delicious!

What is the best type of pasta for macaroni and cheese?

Most people just use elbow macaroni pasta because “macaroni” is right in the name. But actually, pasta with ridges is far better because the sauce clings to the ridges. That’s why the best pasta to use is cavatappi. Its corkscrew shape means lots of areas for sauce to cling onto.

What cheeses are best?

Young, moist cheeses melt better than older, drier ones. So avoid cheeses like parmesan and manchego (although they could make for a good crunchy topping). I like to stick with sharp cheddar for taste, smoked gouda for complexity, and American cheese. Why use processed American cheese? Because it contains stabilizers that will prevent your cheese sauce from breaking and turning grainy. Velveeta does the same thing. I also used cream cheese in the sauce to make it extra creamy. I used Challenge cream cheese for this recipe because the taste and texture is far superior to anything else I've found on the market. That's because it's made with real milk, cream, and other natural ingredients.

Why grate your own cheese?

Yes, it is a pain, but it makes a huge difference! That’s because pre-shredded cheese is coated in additives that prevent it from clumping. But those same additives also prevent it from melting well.

What type of milk?

You want milk high in fat for an extra creamy macaroni and cheese. Some people use heavy cream or half and half, but I find it can make the dish greasy. Instead, I used evaporated milk. Evaporated milk has more protein than regular milk, but less fat than heavy cream, resulting in a creamy filling without it being too greasy.

What should you use as a topping?

I like to use extra cheese or panko because it’s light and airy, but you could use cracker crumbs, breadcrumbs, fried onions, etc. Or you could forego a crunch topping.

Easiest baked macaroni and cheese

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Challenge unsalted butter
  • 3 cups evaporated milk
  • 8 ounces Challenge cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (set aside 4 ounces for topping)
  • 8 ounces smoked gouda cheese, grated (set aside 4 ounces for topping)
  • 6 ounces American cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 pound cavatappi pasta, uncooked

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease 7x11-inch square baking dish with butter. Set aside.
  2. Blend evaporated milk, cream cheese, dry mustard, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, ground cayenne, smoked paprika, and black pepper. 
  3. Mix in 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, American cheese, smoked gouda cheese, and uncooked pasta.
  4. Pour into prepared pan, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Uncover pan, stir, sprinkle reserved cheese on top, and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. 
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve. The consistency sets up like a custard.

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