When it’s cold out and I’ve consumed more tea than I care to admit, making a meal that uses all the dishes in my kitchen is the last thing I want to do. So, when I find a solid, one-dish recipe, I make sure that I hang on to it. In this case, one-pot mac and cheese! Because let’s be honest, cold weather demands comfort food, and is there anything more comforting than a bowl of something warm and full of carbs and melty, delicious cheese?
That said, every time I make this recipe I end up with crazy, obscene heartburn. Like, something-is-trying-to-break-out-of-my-ribcage levels of awful. Surely that should be enough to limit my consumption, right?
False. It just means I’ve actually gotten better about stocking my medicine cabinet with Tums. Please enjoy a homemade mac and cheese recipe for your arsenal–and it’s made in one pot, too, for all you lazy bastards out there (i.e., me).
One-Pot Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups dried pasta (something small like those mini shells or actual macaroni noodles is probably ideal, but if bowtie or something else is your jam, go for it)
- 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups milk (use whatever you have on hand, although full disclosure, I’ve never tried this with anything other than cow’s milk)
- 1 tbsp. butter (some people say this doesn’t make a difference, but why take that risk?)
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard (plus whatever extra seasonings you’re feeling that day: garlic powder, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, etc. — go crazy)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups loosely packed shredded cheese (cheddar is always a solid choice, but you do you, I’m not about to police your cheese choices)
At this point you might be thinking, yo that is a lot of non-vegetables, this can’t be healthy. And you know what, you’re right. But that’s the point of mac and cheese, fool. If you want to shovel cheese and butter and tasty, tasty carbs into your mouth, mac and cheese is the best medium.
But fine, whatever. Add some vegetables if you want. Go ahead and throw in some frozen broccoli or whatever you have on hand. I guess that maybe a can of black beans wouldn’t be awful.
Other optional things: ground beef, chorizo, BACON, shredded chicken, or those soy crumble things for all you vegetarians/vegans out there. (Any meat you want to add should be cooked before adding to the dish. Obviously.)
And now, putting it all together:
Note: If you are adding any additional meat or vegetables, I recommend taking care of those first. You can keep it warm in a pan on low until you’re ready to add.
1. Rinse the pasta and let it drain. In a medium-size pot, add pasta, 2 1/4 cups milk, butter, whatever seasoning and spices you’ve decided on, and salt. I’d add the seasonings with a light hand–trust me when I say that adding too much cayenne is a thing you only do once.
Looks a mess! Will taste delicious.
2. On medium heat, bring mixture to a simmer. Slowly. Have you ever scorched milk? It’s unpleasant and smells weird. Stir often and take your time here.
3. When everything is at a simmer, lower the heat and continue to let things cook. Keep stirring frequently so that the pasta doesn’t stick. (This is probably going to take some time. Be patient. I say that, but whenever I make this, I rush things along. But, don’t be me–maybe slow and steady is a new level of magical mac and cheese!)
4. If you’re good at multitasking (I am not) and didn’t prep whatever additional items you want to add, now would be a good time to get on that.
In this case, sausage and zucchini.
5. For this recipe, definitely trust your gut, your eyes, and your taste buds. When the pasta starts to look as though most of the liquid has been absorbed, start taste-testing. Depending on how patient you were and how long it took the pasta to come to a simmer, this could be as quick as 5 minutes or as long as 15 minutes. If the pasta is too al dente for your liking but most of the milk has been absorbed, you can add some additional milk a few tablespoons at a time. Again, patience is key. (In all honesty, I never listen to this rule, but be better than me.)
6. Finally, when the pasta is done and all the milk is absorbed or you’re just too impatient to wait any longer, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. This is also when you’d add your meat, veggies, and so on. Stir to combine and cover. If you have some self control, let it sit for at least 5 minutes until the cheese is all melty.
Hand shredded because occasionally I do things right.
7. Do some tasting, add any salt or extra seasoning you want, and then dig in.
Still looks a mess; still tastes delicious.
May the heartburn gods look favorably upon you, my child.
(Also, pro tip: don’t let the pot stand for hours because wow; cleaning it becomes infinitely more difficult.)