Saturday, November 5, 2011

Super Cheesy Mac and Cheese

I have never been big on mac and cheese. Well, I mean I'm sure there was a period in my youth where I could not get enough of the powdered cheese and pasta stuff Kraft puts out there in its lovely blue box. But in general, mac and cheese has not been one of my favorite foods since around the time play doh and crayons also stopped being a serious contenders for that honor. I know it's practically blasphemy here in America to not like mac and cheese, but there it is.

However, pregnancy changes things. I never really had weird food cravings when I was pregnant with Lizzie--my husband was spared ever having to go on a midnight pickle and ice cream run--but I did start craving foods I'd never really wanted before. Like cheese. If a recipe called for a sprinkling of shredded cheese, my pregnant brain immediately decided that it could be improved by about 100000% by using something closer to an entire bag of shredded cheese instead. I never got to the point where I was just going to eat plain cheese all on its own for a snack, but cooking with excessive cheese became something of a given.

Strangely, this fascination with cheesy recipes did not go away once I had Lizzie and here she is almost 14 months old and I'm still thinking super cheesy is the only way to go. Thus, mac and cheese has made its way back into my life after all these years. My husband, a cheese-aholic from way back, is thrilled.

1 large pot
1 small saucepan
2qt casserole dish
spoons for mixing
some device for shredding cheese and crumbling crackers into crumbs (I used my food processor. You could also just buy shredded cheese and smash the crackers by hand if you want.)

1 box macaroni-type pasta (elbows, shells, rotini, whatever strikes your fancy)
16 oz cheese of your choice (In this case, I used 8 oz of sharp cheddar and 8 oz of pepper jack. The pepper jack gives it a great flavor; a little kick but not overpoweringly spicy.)
16 oz heavy whipping cream
1/2 or so of crumbled crackers or bread crumbs

That's it. This is probably one of my easiest recipes ever. Also, not so much in the healthy category. But I feel like you should have expected that, given the name.

Step 1: Cook pasta according to directions on the box, using the minimum cooking time suggested. You want it to be cooked but not completely soft; you're going to bake it too. Drain.

Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, warm the cream in the small saucepan. Don't cook the cream or boil the cream or anything like that. Seriously, warm on low heat, just enough that it's not refrigerator cold. You should also take this time to shred the cheese and crumble the crackers if you didn't just buy them that way.

Step 3: Mix warm cream, drained pasta, and shredded cheese together. You could theoretically use a separate mixing bowl for this step, but I prefer just to use the pasta pot. One less dish to wash, and we all know I'm all about minimizing the cleaning. Pour mixture into the casserole dish. Top with crumbs.

Step 4: Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and the crumbs look toasted. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you happen to be at the time.

Recipe adapted from: This recipes is a mangled, pretty much unrecognizable version of Annie's Muenster Mac and Cheese. She has dozens of mac and cheese recipes on her site (seriously, I searched her site for "mac and cheese" and got something like 186 results) and this one is by far the simplest, which is what made me want to try it in the first place. I did make the recipe as it stood once, but Lee and I both thought it was too bland and not cheesy enough. As you can see, I've more than compensated for those issues here.


  1. Very similar to my great grandmother's mac and cheese, only hers involves alcohol and several flavorings found in fridge door. Still never written down, or anything measured for that matter, but very yummy.

  2. Measuring is for sissies. :) As is writing down recipes and this is why, I can never make something delicious the same way twice. Sigh.

  3. I suppose I should note that measurements here are based on either a) exact, but only because that's the size of the packaging available (a wide variety of cheeses are available in 8oz bricks, the cream comes in a pint, etc) or b) a total guess, because I felt like I had to put a measurement of some kind. (i.e I dumped on crumbs until it looked right, then decided for the purposes of this blog that it looked to be about 1/2 cup.)

    I never used to write recipes down. I'd keep track of the "base" recipe, and then try to remember how I modified it each time, because I'm too lazy to write the changes down somewhere. Now Lee, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it), makes me write down all my recipes so he can figure out the calories for his dieting. I suppose that's why he's lost over 100 pounds and I, paying absolutely no attention to calories most of the time, keep gaining and losing the same 10 pounds over and over again.