Friday, August 16, 2013

Busy-Day Macaroni and Cheese

This is my go-to meal for busy summer days when my schedule threatens to swallow me and I need a little dependable comfort; I am immensely soothed by a proper meal eaten at a table with conversation.  It dawned on me that I have never blogged about this recipe because it appears during such busy times.  Like today, and that bushel of tomatoes.

I probably would still prefer oven-baked macaroni and cheese made with a white sauce (hello, Mom!), but any recipe that combines cheese and pasta is pretty darn good and this recipe is so incredibly easy.  The genius of cooking in the slow cooker is that it allows plenty of flex time at the end of the recipe - great for unpredictable schedules or spontaneous people.  This one, for example, can sit in the turned-off slow cooker for at least 30 minutes, probably more, if you're scrambling through your day - and then you get to have a nice, comforting plate of pasta!  I mix this up before we leave for swimming lessons, and it's done when we fall in the door at noon in wet swimming suits. Fabulous. 

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Serves 2-3 if you're my family; I've been doubling this recipe this summer (see note on doubling below)

Generously butter a 3 or 4-quart slow cooker. 

Put in it:
1 2/3 cups uncooked macaroni or other similar small pasta
2 3/4 cups milk (I use 2%)
3 cups shredded sharp cheese, mixture of kinds preferred
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground mustard

Mix.  Cover.  Cook on low for 2-3 hours, taking the lid off for 20-30 minutes at the end if it looks soupier than you want.
To double this recipe, use a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, cook on HIGH, and do not double the milk - make it more like 4 1/4 cups instead of 5 1/2 cups.

Now, there are some variables here, depending on how hot your cooker cooks and how soft or soupy you like your mac and cheese.  You will have to experiment. I like my mac and cheese on the firm, dry side with plenty of pepper and sharp cheese.  The cheese is important and I recommend that you mix several kinds of cheddar or Monterey Jack or the like, including a very sharp cheese.  I sometimes use a bit of smoked cheddar, too.  Some Parmesan would be excellent, I'm sure.

Serve with a plate of sliced tomatoes or cucumbers, purple basil optional, or whatever summer fruit needs to be eaten next.  Complete meal.  Complete comfort food.  Try it on your next busy day and let me know how you like it!


Julian said...

Oh yum!

jenny_o said...

This is the same as my recipe for mac & cheese ... except mine takes a pot AND a casserole dish, a half hour hands-on time and a half hour in the oven in the stinkin' summertime heat! Any wonder I don't make it at this time of the year?!

A slow cooker would be so helpful. I do have one, but I no longer use it because it's so old that I worry it isn't going to get up to temperature in the recommended time. I need to test it (test is on the internet).

If it works, this is the first recipe I'm making. Thanks for sharing it.

Unknown said...

I was just thinking of making a crock pot mac for a get together next weekend. Thanks for the tip on the milk. I'm sure I would have made cheesy macaroni soup!

Zoë said...

Oops. Wendell's comment? Actually me. Sorry I didn't realize he was the one signed in to google on our computer!

sara said...

Trying this today. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jennifer Jo said...

Zoe, I DID think it rather odd that Wendell reads Margo's blog and was cooking for a group. Now Kenton, maybe...

sara said...

Well, I liked it, but my I-can't-have-my-food-touching kid wouldn't go near it. The 4-year-old liked it very much and 8-year-old ate it because I told him to.

Margo said...

Sara, thanks for the report!

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

This is just perfect. love mac and cheese.. I will be using this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Christy said...

Thanks so much for sharing! We took a bike ride yesterday at the rail trail. I set up the crock pot beforehand, and it was ready when we got home. Had it with stewed tomatoes, peaches, and fall strawberries. Very yummy. Thanks for the recipe!

Margo said...

Christy, that's nice to hear! Thank you.

MDiskin said...

Making this now. :)