Cooking On A Budget: Easy Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Easy Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese


Let's just say I know lots of you are pressed for time out there and often wonder if you can make something that's delicious, homemade, easy and for not a lot of money, especially on a weeknight. With kids in school and families that have their children participate in various sporting activities or some kind of lessons you need easy meals.

I almost always had that boxed stuff on hand for the kids for them when they were old enough to make it for themselves. It served more as a snack than anything. Now that they are all grown up and out of the nest I do not buy it.

Yesterday I set out to see exactly how much time it would take me to make a home made macaroni and cheese that was tasty and would serve 4-6 portions. Up until now I followed the way my mother always made her delicious macaroni and cheese and from start to finish it took about 3 hours. I've found a way to do this so that from start to finished you are looking at just a little bit over an hour; start to finish.
  • 2 - 10 oz. bars seriously sharp cheddar cheese 
  • 1/2 box penne pasta - cooked to manufacturer's directions
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375 °.
  2. Get your water started in a pot for the pasta.
  3. While the water is heating up, make a roux by melting the butter in a medium sauce pot over medium to medium low heat. When the butter is almost melted add in the flour and cook and whisk for about 2 - 3 minutes until you cook out the raw flour taste. To the roux, slow pour in the milk and keep whisking until incorporated fully. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. Using a box grater or an attachment on your food processor, shred 1 full bar of cheddar cheese and just about 1/3 of the second bar. Wrap the remaining cheese in plastic and store in the refrigerator.
  5. By this time the pasta water is probably boiling, so add your salt to taste to the pasta water and cook to manufacturer's directions.
  6. While the pasta is cooking, add in some of the shredded cheese and keep whisking until it melts. I put in about 2/3rds of the cheese in the sauce.
  7. Drain your pasta and rinse under cold water. Spray your casserole with cooking spray.
  8. Finish melting in more cheese if you haven't done so already.
  9. Using the same pasta pot add the pasta back in and pour in the cheese sauce you've made. Stir to combine and pour all of it into your sprayed casserole dish. Take the rest of the cheese and place it on the top.
  10. Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Set the oven to broil and broil for about 5-7 minutes until the tops is bubbly and golden brown.

You want it to be golden brown like it shows in this picture.

I got my cheese at 2 for $4.00 which helped keep this lower in cost. The pasta was on sale for 10 for $10.00 as well. This dinner cost me $5.34 to put together. If you think you need a protein along side then hot dogs, kielbasa or ham go beautifully with this. As for vegetables most any will go with the cheesy goodness of the dish.
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