Mac and cheese is a staple for families with children—because it’s super delicious and easy to make. Even adults love its creamy, comforting taste. But you don’t need to stick with the box – branch out with these delicious and simple mac and cheese recipes.

But first, check out all you need to know about spaghetti and is it even healthy?

1. Classic Stove Top – Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 – 2½ cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese

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How to Make it:

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot.
  2. Add the flour and combine. Cook this mixture for one minute.
  3. Pour in ½ cup of the water and stir until you have a smooth mixture that is beginning to thicken.
  4. Gradually add the rest of the water and the milk. Stir until combined.
  5. Add the pasta and salt. Combine all ingredients.
  6. Stir until the mixture begins to simmer. You can grate your cheese while it’s cooking.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer. Cook for about five minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Stir occasionally.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Season with more salt if you need to.

Notes:

  • For a healthier version, you can substitute with whole grain pasta.
  • Full-fat milk, such as whole milk, makes the mac and cheese creamier, but you can always substitute skim milk and light butter to cut down on fat content.

2. Baked – Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni pasta, uncooked
  • 7 tablespoons butter (to be divided among the pasta, topping, and sauce)
  • ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

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How to Make it:

  1. Boil and cook the pasta according to its instructions, minus one minute.
  2. Drain pasta and return to pot. Toss in one tablespoon butter until melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Mix panko breadcrumbs, two tablespoons of butter, and ¼ teaspoon of salt to make the topping. Set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Melt remaining four tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan or skillet.
  6. Add flour and cook for one minute.
  7. Then, add one cup of milk and mix well. Then, add remaining two cups of milk, mixing well until there are no lumps left.
  8. Mix in salt.
  9. Cook for five to eight minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens into a cream-like consistency.
  10. Remove from heat and add shredded cheese.
  11. Add more salt if needed.
  12. Pour sauce mixture into pot with pasta. Stir thoroughly, then pour back into the skillet or into a baking pan.
  13. Sprinkle with topping, like cheese and bacon.
  14. Bake for 25 minutes, until the topping is a light golden color.

Notes:

  • You can add fiber and healthy carbs by using whole grain pasta.
  • A low-fat version could use skim milk and light butter. You will sacrifice creaminess, though, by not using full-fat milk.

3. Vegan – Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni pasta, uncooked
  • 2 cups of potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened plant milk, such as soy, coconut, almond, or oat milk
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

Check out Amazon Fresh! Its a great place to get just about all the ingredients you need!

How to Make it:

  1. Boil or steam the potatoes and carrots in a large pot until soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta according to its instructions while the veggies are softening. Drain pasta and set aside.
  3. Once the potatoes and carrots have been softened, place them inside a blender. Add olive oil, almond or soy milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Blend until smooth.
  4. Mix pasta and sauce in the large pot.

Notes:

  • For heart health benefits, use extra virgin olive oil.
  • Substitute gluten-free pasta if you have sensitivities.
  • Soy milk is the most common milk used in vegan dishes, but if you have problems with soy, you can use almond, oat, or coconut milk. Coconut milk is best for those with nut allergies or grain-free diets.

Other Variations

Here is another way to cook mac and cheese, here is another one:

  • Toss one pound of macaroni pasta into a crockpot with 2½ cups whole milk, 12 ounces evaporated milk, three cups shredded cheddar cheese, one teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ cup butter (cubed), and a dash of cayenne pepper. Stir the ingredients together, then cook on low heat until the pasta is tender and sauce is thick and creamy. This is a no-hassle approach to creamy mac and cheese.
  • Add bacon for a loaded mac and cheese.
  • Increase the health factor of your dish by adding vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and artichokes.

So Many Ways to Cook a Classic Dish

Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that everyone enjoys and can be cooked in a variety of ways. The suggestions above only scratch the surface of what is possible with mac and cheese. Start experimenting to find your own family favorites!

If you’re looking for other great recipes or simply a few meal ideas, check out our article on different recipes to use mushrooms in, or healthy breakfast sandwich recipes and even protein rich meal ideas!