Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Whether you eat it out of a box, or bake it with loads of cheese and eggs, I haven’t met anyone who does not like this gooey sleep inducing treat. I will take Macaroni and Cheese in any avatar, depending on the time and ingredients I have on hand. Let’s face it. We are all in a perpetual hurry and always on the go. Who has time to wait for a 40 minute casserole?
I am calling my recipe ‘almost instant’ because it is not as quick as the orange thing you get out of a Kraft packet. But it is also not my usual method of making a béchamel base and adding cheese to it, then baking it in the oven. I am using corn starch as a thickener and a lower amount of cheese. So this is lower in fat compared to richer versions I have done. And using corn starch or corn flour makes it easy for new cooks. Or for seasoned cooks who are in a hurry.
I love adding peas to my mac and cheese – actually I love adding peas to almost everything – but I am using red pepper here or red capsicum as it is called in the other side of the world. The sweetness of the red pepper perfectly complements the salty cheese. Broccoli or mushrooms would also be great here.
I am using elbow macaroni, but any short cut pasta will be great here like the corkscrews, small shells, mini penne etc.
Here’s the recipe –
1 packet Bambino Macaroni
1 large red pepper or capsicum
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp corn starch or corn flour
200g or 8 oz Processed cheese
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp olive oil/ butter
- Finely chop the onion and red capsicum.
- Shred the cheese and refrigerate until needed. Amul or Britannia processed cheese is most readily available in India. Other brands I recommend are the Baramati Cheddar if you can get or Go cheese blends. Velveeta is another option if you are in the US, although I have never used it myself. Any mild or sharp cheddar, Kraft or Sargento shredded cheese is a good choice. You can of course also mix two or three of your favorite cheeses here.
- Boil macaroni until al dente or almost cooked. Bambino is the most economical and easily available macaroni in India, but it cooks pretty fast. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t over cook. If you are using pasta, follow package instructions.
- Heat oil and/or butter in a pan. I use both to get a nice flavor and because oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Add the onions and peppers and stir until translucent. Add the spices and mix well.
- Add most of the milk, reserving some to make a slurry.
- Mix corn starch and ¼ cup milk in a small bowl until well blended.
- Once the milk in the pan comes to a boil, lower heat and add the corn starch mixture.
- Keep stirring to avoid lumps and avoid burning at the bottom. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer until it thickens and the corn starch is cooked out. This should take 2-3 minutes.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese dissolves. The sauce should be pretty thick by this time.
- Add the macaroni or cooked pasta and mix well. The sauce should thickly coat the macaroni.
- Serve hot with some more pepper or basil on top.
I absolutely loved this recipe because it is strong on flavor and easier to make. Using low fat milk and 2% cheese will considerably lower the fat content here. You can adjust the spices according to taste, and maybe omit them altogether to make this kid proof. It all depends on what you like, doesn’t it?
So the next time you crave mac and cheese, try out this almost instant mac and cheese recipe. I know the steps seem like a lot but it actually takes a lower amount of time, especially if you boil the pasta simultaneously while doing the rest of the things.