Friday, January 4, 2013

NomNom: One Pot Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

This past week has been bitter cold here in the east coast and when the weather turns a corner like that and gives us a blast of chilly air, I seek warm, comfort food. Savory broths, soups or hearty dishes are pretty much what I yearn during the winter and this mac n' cheese recipe I'm sharing with you today is pretty much perfect to eat all winter....spring....summer....fall....365 days of the year long. Really.

When I made this baked mac n' cheese dish several months ago, I mentioned that mac n' cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods to eat and though I love to experiment with various ways to cook it all fancy, I still love the good ol' simplistic, cheesy, stove top way of cooking it. The stove top way doesn't require as much steps compared to the baked route and is seriously just as good.

So the crazy thing about this recipe is that it requires only ONE POT and NO OVEN IS REQUIRED. You cook the pasta in one pot and then continue the recipe in that same pot with the pasta. It's glorious because washing dishes is one thing I don't particularly enjoy when in the kitchen after prepping/cooking. I usually delegate that task to the guy, naturally.

The holidays haven't fared well for my waistline and I suppose this dish hasn't helped any but whatever. I mean, I had leftover broccoli in the refrigerator so I tossed that in the pot to make myself feel better, ok? Life is too short to worry about that extra pound (go exercise! eat in moderation! make this recipe!).

Have a great weekend. Xo.

Recipe (Adapted from Yields 3-4
2 cups large elbow Macaroni, uncooked (about 1/2 lb)
2 cups low fat Milk (about 16 oz) , or more if needed
If more milk is needed, additional 1/4 cup milk at a time for final cooking. Macaroni pasta varies so much. Have additional milk on hand, or be ready to increase the heat if your macaroni doesn't absorb fast enough.
1 tablespoon Butter, for flavor
1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
1 teaspoon Salt, plus additional for final season later
Generous dash of Nutmeg
1 cup Grated Cheese, any one or combination of  (jack, cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan*, asiago*, pecorino*) *Hard cheeses are best combined with a secondary,  softer, better melting cheese. Cheese varies in flavor and salt level too!
Additional (optional) toppings: bacon bits, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, diced tomatoes, leftover veggies
Black pepper to taste (optional)

1. Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain.

2. In medium sauce pan (about 3.5 qt), add milk, raw elbow macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg.

3. On medium heat, slowly bring milk/macaroni mixture to a simmer, stirring the macaroni frequently as it comes up to a simmer. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The milk mixture will come to a boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove stop.

4. Once mixture comes to a simmer, immediately turn down heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in the milk. Having your heat too high will evaporate the milk too quickly!

5. Continue to stir the mixture frequently so that macaroni will cook evenly and absorb milk evenly. If you don't stir your mixture frequently, you will get a big clump of macaroni in the end! Stir, stir stir!

6. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until milk has been fully absorbed. **If macaroni is not cooked fully, add a little more milk or water  to mixture ( in small amounts) until macaroni is fully cooked. This will take about another 5 minutes.

7. When milk has evaporated, stir in grated cheese of your choice. Stir the  cheese evenly into the macaroni.

8. Turn off heat. Place lid on top of pan and cover for about 5 minutes. This rest period will allow macaroni to plump up and absorb any excess milk.

9. Take a final taste and add additional salt to taste. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together. Serve immediately.

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