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Customizing Macaroni and Cheese (Homemade or Boxed)

Updated on December 9, 2012

Mac n Chee, Elbow Macaroni with Endless Possibilities

Cast your vote for Macaroni and Cheese

Mmm Cheese.....

Naturally when going the homemade route, the whole shabang is about the cheese. Some swear by melted Velveeta while others insist high brow artisan cheese transforms this potentially bland side dish into a creamy, decadent indulgence. The possibilities are endless though I would suggest staying away from pungent cheeses, anything else is fair game, however keep in mind you want at least one really good melting cheese.

Tried and True Cheese Combos That Are Sure To Please:

  • Asiago, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella
  • Cheddar ( sharp or smoked ) & Colby Jack
  • Cotswald & Colby
  • Munster, Velveeta and Medium Cheddar
  • Smoked Gouda, Smoked Cheddar
  • Pepperjack, Queso-Blanco, Taco Cheese
  • Sun-dried Tomato Cheddar & Herbed Mozzarella
  • Salami Cheese, Mild Cheddar & Monterey Jack
  • Feta, Herbed Goat Cheese & Mozzarella
  • Gruyere, Fontina & Parmesan
  • Havarti, Aged Port Cheddar & Gruyere
  • The MoneyShot: Whatever's in the fridge

Have No Fear, Veggies are Here!

Dairy and carbs, not exactly a waistline's bosom buddy but some vegetables can up the taste, texture and nutritional value. As with the cheese, you can preplan your vegetable additions or use whatever's in the fridge or cluttering up your pantry. I like to steam or roast my fresh veggies before I add them in but that's my personal preference, some home gourmets prefer canned or frozen veggies, we all do what we can when it is dinnertime.

My favorite additions:

  • Steamed broccoli
  • Sauteed onions & mushrooms
  • Steamed cauliflower, broccoli & carrot
  • Artichoke & shiitake mushrooms
  • Sundried Tomato, onions & Broccoli
  • Kalamata olives, spinach & chopped roma tomato
  • Green chilies & fresh pico de gallo
  • Roasted Red Peppers & Asparagus
  • Chili Beans (drained but not rinsed), minced onion & roasted poblano peppers,

Meat Makes The Meal

So now you have a delicious custom cheese sauce simmering on the stove -or more actually are imagining said dairy ambrosia- as you naturally would start the meat before the sauce unless you are using leftovers, which is always a fabulous thing. Some of the best recipes in the world have been discovered in the 'using up' of what's in the fridge and pantry.

I used to plan meals in two week blocks and I didn't often get the chance to throw things together; it was a fascinating notion as my obsessive compulsive disorder had previously prevented me from that sort of chaos and chance when it came to dinner and I had two other people to feed as well.

Macaroni and Cheese, or the concept of noodles and cheese sauce as a stepping stone as I view it, is the heart of comfort food so was goes with that, you ask? Well if you're like the other millions of carnivorous humans on this planet, MEAT.

Tried and Truly Lovely Meat Additions:

  • Bacon, fried (I love Smoked Applewood Bacon!)
  • Ham, cooked (chopped or shredded)
  • Pancetta, fried ( chopped fine )
  • Chorizo, cooked and drained well
  • Chicken,grilled or roasted (shredded or chopped)
  • Ground Beef, cooked and drained
  • Taco Beef (leftover cooked and seasoned)
  • Lobster (cooked and chopped roughly)
  • Gyro Lamb or Beef
  • Turkey, roasted (shredded)
  • Ground Venison
  • Canned Albacore Tuna
  • Chili (leftover cooked ground beef, beans, onions, peppers and tomatoes)

Your Favorite Combinations

What Are Your favorite Custom Macaroni and Cheese additions?

See results

Basic Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb CHEESE, shredded, one or more types
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 12 ounces plain breadcrumnbs, Or Ritz Crackers, crumbled

Basic Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Stir in the macaroni, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through,about 9 minutes. Drain well.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the 1st 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat. When it is melted completely, whisk in the sifted all purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. This is a roux, good basic skill to have, took more than the average time to get this down pat.
  4. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly til it is all combined and slowly add the shredded cheese, cook and stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.
  5. Add the macaroni and stir to coat. (This is also wear you should be putting in your veggie, meat and seasoning additions.) Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. (I like to lightly butter the inside of my pan.)
  6. Mix the 1/4 cup melted butter and breadcrumbs/crushed crackers together in a bowl; then scatter the mixture evenly over the macaroni and cheese sauce
  7. Bake uncovered on the middle rack of the preheated oven until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 20 min
Yields: Six Servings

Box It Up (Kraft)

In my humble opinion if you're doing boxed macaroni and cheese that Kraft is the best. Its just what I grew up eating so that little blue box owns a small piece of my childhood and therefore my heart. But you can always spruce up the simple meal with cooked veggies and meats and by melting a layer of shredded cheese and seasoned butter breadcrumbs/crackers on top and sliding the macaroni from a saucepan to a pan and putting it in the oven on low broil, make sure to keep watch for your desired level of golden. Enjoy.

The Sad Reality

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of pan
Calories 700
Calories from Fat360
% Daily Value *
Fat 40 g62%
Saturated fat 25 g125%
Carbohydrates 54 g18%
Sugar 9 g
Fiber 2 g8%
Cholesterol 130 mg43%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

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