I am a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. It was a childhood favorite that I never seem to stop enjoying as an adult. The difference is that as an adult, I tend a feel a tiny pang of guilt about how unhealthy it can be and how processed it is when you buy it from the store. I mean, cheese that’s been engineered to remain packaged on a shelf? Despite any marketing, that cannot be ‘natural cheese.’
My husband and I will make a baked version of macaroni and cheese from time to time, usually with some fancy combination of cheeses like Gruyere and Swiss and aged Cheddar. It’s delicious, but time-consuming. And it’s more crispy than creamy. So when I crave the creamy kind of macaroni and cheese I remember as a kid, it’s easy to rely on a box.
Now perhaps you can imagine how excited I was when I came across this recipe from Annie’s Eats that looked easy and seemed to turn out creamy based on her pictures. I’ve never eaten the mac and cheese from Panera, so I can’t attest to how similar it may be. But I can say that even with my rather limited cooking abilities, this dish satisfied a craving and was simple to prepare.
I made a small change and used two kinds of Cheddar (sharp and medium) instead of American cheese (which in my humble opinion, doesn’t pack a whole lot of flavor). So instead of 4 oz. of American cheese, I used 4 oz. of medium Cheddar and 8 oz. of sharp Cheddar. I also didn’t have any hot sauce on hand, so instead I added some cayenne pepper with a little bit of paprika.
It was warm, creamy, rich and absolutely perfect for a chilly Sunday dinner. With a salad of course, because you can’t forget your veggies. It’s still maybe not quite healthy, but I do like that I know exactly what’s in it – and that I can pronounce all of its ingredients.
It seems like a pretty flexible recipe, so I look forward to trying it perhaps with different combinations and ratios of cheese, in addition to varying degrees of spiciness. It was so easy and well-worth the effort, I honestly think I’ll have a hard time eating boxed macaroni and cheese again.
What childhood favorites have you re-created?