Easy, adaptable mac ’n cheese

Photos by Michael Kartes

  1. Basic Mac ’n Cheese
  2. Dungeness Crab Mac ’n Cheese
  3. Roasted Butternut Squash and Blue Mac ’n Cheese
  4. Roasted Jalapeño and Bacon with Extra Sharp White Cheddar Mac ’n Cheese
  5. Peas and Bacon Mac ’n Cheese

Skip the oven if you want to make homemade macaroni and cheese quickly. Who has the time or patience to wait for the mac ’n cheese to bake for an hour or more? You can be eating perfectly cooked noodles swimming in cheesy, creamy sauce in a fraction of the time.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Mac ’n Cheese

Roasted Cherry Tomato Mac ’n Cheese

Basic Mac ’n Cheese

Serves 4-6


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or any short pasta
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta according to the directions on the package. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and return the hot pasta to the hot pot. Turn the heat off. Add cream, cheeses and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until the cheeses are melted. The cream will continue to tighten up as the cheese melts. Finish by topping with buttery breadcrumbs and serve.

Buttery Breadcrumb Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups torn white bread
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a small skillet, toast the bread in butter over medium heat; this should take about 5 minutes. Transfer the toasted bread to a food processor and pulse a few times to create small crumbs. Add herbs, zest, salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.

Crispy Topping Easy Cheat

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in microwave. Add 2 cups panko and desired seasonings — such as garlic. Top macaroni — the panko lends a crunchy texture as if it were baked.

Pasta Combos to Try
Macaroni and cheese is just the beginning. Think of it as a blank, cheesy canvas waiting for you to personalize. Try using your favorite cheeses or adding a touch of cayenne pepper for a kick. Consider adding a protein — pepperoni, ground beef or bacon. The sky is the limit. No matter what, I love adding the breadcrumbs as the finishing touch — a crunchy, buttery crown of glory.

It’s important that the heat is off when adding the cheese to the hot pasta. Cheddar cheese has a breaking point. To avoid a gritty texture, melt the cheese slowly. If necessary, turn heat on low for only a minute or two.


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