On that note, and I’m a little frightened that I know this, but in a pinch you can substitute beer for milk in boxed mac and cheese. I recommend, from distant memory, also drinking more beer while you eat that.
Back to the modern incarnation of me. I have made many wonderful baked macaroni and cheese recipes with crushed salty potato chips on top, or crunchy bread crumbs and bacon on top, and they are fantastic. But this is stove-top macaroni and cheese, for the kids and grown-ups out there who like it simple, but want it to be gooey and good. Here, the Velveeta is one of three cheeses and it lends that other-worldy, satiny texture which is bolstered in flavor with sharp cheddar and parmesan. You will be stuffed silly after you eat this. But you will be smiling. This recipe can feed a small army. But it isn’t one to have sitting around. The minute you put the elbow macaroni into the boiling water, start melting the butter for the cheese sauce. If you have your ingredients handy, this mac and cheese can be pulled off in about 15 minutes from the time the water starts boiling. And you will want to serve it immediately.
I am the middle space…the gray area. I love kale salad but I’m not scared to pull out the Velveeta when the spirit moves me. And for queso, and for certain macaroni and cheese dishes, I like it. I like it a lot.
16 ounces elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup flour
3½ cups milk
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1. Bring a pot of water to a brisk boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions, or approximately 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and vigorously stir the flour into the butter with a whisk. Slowly add the milk and continuously whisk to work out any lumps as you pour. Allow the milk and flour mixture to cook for approximately 3 minutes or until nicely thickened. Remove the cream sauce from the heat and add all of the cheeses. Stir slowly. Allow the cheeses to melt and become fully incorporated into the sauce.
3. Drain the macaroni and add it to the cheese sauce. Stir to fully coat the macaroni with the cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust the amount of salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately.
NOTE: I owe this one to my great friend Courtney Mertens. She and I made this for our kids over Christmas break and have tinkered with it in our own homes ever since. She and I cook together, long distance, often and she is a huge help with many of my recipes and always has great ideas…like this one.