Now that it’s September, most parts of the country are finally starting to cool off, but here in Southern CA, it’s still super hot! As you can imagine, I’m not very motivated to use my oven right now, but my husband and I are still craving classic comfort foods that usually require some baking. So, to solve this dilemma, I decided to alter one of our mac and cheese casserole recipes a little so I could make it entirely on the stovetop. If you’re still suffering in the heat like we are, but you’re hankering for some yummy comfort food, here’s my recipe for homemade, stovetop mac and cheese that won’t add to your air conditioning bill. Another plus is that this recipe is low-fat, so it also won’t grow you out of your shorts!
To make enough to serve 4, you’ll need the following (if you want to double the recipe to serve 8, simply double each ingredient, but also add an extra 1 Tbs of all-purpose flour):
1 large or 2 small to medium pieces of sandwich bread
12 oz short cut pasta, your choice, boiled and drained (elbows would be traditional, of course)
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp regular salt)
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
dash of red pepper
1/2 tsp Bacon Salt® (This is optional, but SOOO worth adding – it’s available on Amazon if you can’t find it in your local grocery store. My husband and I especially like the hickory flavor.)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups non-fat milk (or any low-fat milk you have on hand, but this really does work great with non-fat milk!!)
2 or 3 oz of a 2% cheddar cheese block (you can substitute shredded if you have that on hand)
1 oz of a block of 2% Velveeta®
First, start by making the breadcrumb topping. Remove the crust from the bread (it’ll break up better that way). Tear it into small pieces, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, and add the pieces to a food processor. Run/pulse till the bread has been reduced in size to between coarse and fine crumbs.
Spray a medium to large, non-stick skillet with non-stick spray. Transfer the breadcrumbs to the skillet, and spread them out in a thin, even layer. Spray the top of the breadcrumbs with more non-stick spray. Sauté them over medium, stirring/flipping them over somewhat frequently, and then spreading them out again, till they’re all nice and golden brown. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn! Once they’re golden, remove them from the heat, and set them aside till they’re cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, to make the mac and cheese, add all the seasonings to a small bowl and set aside (measuring out seasonings ahead of time always makes cooking a lot less frantic!). Then, add the flour to a separate, small mixing bowl. Add the milk, and whisk together vigorously till all of the flour has been mixed into the milk and the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer the milk/flour mixture to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once the milk/flour mixture comes to a boil, whisk in the seasonings, and reduce the heat, if necessary, so the sauce is simmering. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or till the sauce has thickened to a nice, somewhat thick, gravy-like sauce. Add about half of the cheddar cheese, and continue whisking till it’s completely melted. Add the rest of the cheddar, and whisk till completely melted. Add the Velveeta, and continue whisking till melted.
Remove from the heat and add the cooked pasta. Lightly mix/toss with a large spoon to combine.
At this point, you can just serve it up and top each serving with some breadcrumbs, or for a nicer presentation, you can transfer the mac and cheese to an 8×8 (or similarly sized) casserole dish, and then sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
Variation: If you’d like to add meat or veggies to the dish to make it more substantial, reduce the pasta down to 8oz and then add about 4oz (total) of pre-cooked, diced ham, bacon or sausage, sautéed broccoli, or any other similar meat or veggie. Just add the pre-cooked meat and/or veggies to the sauce after the cheese has completely melted. Bring the sauce back to a simmer to heat through, and then remove from the heat, and mix in the pasta.