Cooking On A Budget: Family Style Hearty Mac 'n Cheese

Friday, April 22, 2016

Family Style Hearty Mac 'n Cheese

Yum
Mac and Cheese - a hearty and filling meal that won't break the bank!


Family Style Hearty Mac 'n Cheese is a low budget dinner that will fill your families bellies and they won't walk away hungry. It's definitely ranked high on my list of comfort food and I'll bet yours too. With a hearty pasta like penne and a blend of cheeses, your family walks away from the dinner table full and totally satisfied. Serve an inexpensive side vegetable along with and there you go ~ you have put together a great meal for your family in about an hour.
I've made a number of Macaroni and Cheese recipes here at Cooking On A Budget. As I stated earlier, it's one of my top comfort foods and both my husband and I really enjoy it. Making it at home from scratch is a way to control the sodium level. Some of the varieties I've had from the store, well all you can taste is salt. I want to taste the cheese and I want the cheese to be real thank you very much!


If you don't own a food processor then a box grater of course will do the job of shredding the cheese, but a food processor makes it so much easier. In less than 30 seconds I grated 2 bars of cheese for my cheese sauce. With my cheese grated in seconds, the cheese sauce doesn't take too long either and baking time isn't extensive. I was able to have this ready from prep to out of oven in an hour.
  • 1 box penne pasta (I recommend Barilla)
  • 1 bar seriously sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 bar Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper (or black if you don't have white)
  • grated nutmeg to taste
  • salt to taste
  • cooking spray and aluminum foil
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
  2. Shred your cheese and set aside.
  3. Get your pasta water on and cook the pasta to just about el dente. (10 minutes)
  4. To a 3 quart sauce pot add the butter and melt it over medium low heat. 
  5. When the butter is melted add the flour and whisk and cook until the flour takes on a "nutty" smell.
  6. Slowly add in the milk and whisk until the roux is fully incorporated.
  7. Add in the Parmesan and whisk until combined. Add in the black pepper and nutmeg. Whisk well.
  8. Then add in the cheeses and whisk over medium low heat until the cheese is completely melted.
  9. Spray your casserole dish with a cooking spray.
  10. Add in the cooked pasta and the cheese sauce. Stir to combine.
  11. Foil the casserole and bake in a preheated 375° oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 minutes more so the top gets a little golden color.
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cook time: 40-45 minutes
Serves: 6
Cost: Approximately $8.79 (with a frozen vegetable or something like zucchini), serving 6 for $1.46 each.

Pasta Cooking Tips for Macaroni and Cheese:
  • Start out with hot tap water.
  • Always add a teaspoon of oil - vegetable, regular olive oil, canola to the water. No matter what anyone else thinks, I believe this does help the pasta from sticking to the bottom or to each other.
  • When the water comes to a boil - add your salt.
  • Stir the pasta 3 times then let it cook.
  • For macaroni and cheese that gets baked, boil the pasta to one minute under el dente. In this case the box said 11 minutes for el dente, I did 10 minutes. You want the pasta cooked, but not mushy.
  • Never rinse the pasta. You want the cheese sauce to adhere nicely to it.
Tips to make this as inexpensive as possible:
  • Get the cheese on sale. My bars were from a 2 for $4.00 sale and they last unopened in the refrigerator for quite a while.
  • Get the pasta on sale. Mine was on sale a while back for $1.00 per box so that's when I stocked up.
  • Look for the sale on regular shelf Parmesan cheese too as well as butter when it goes on sale. Freeze your butter if you stock up.
  • For the vegetable - we do like a few frozen vegetables and I look for sales on those as well so we always have either baby peas or gold and white corn available. Zucchini is another vegetable you can get inexpensively and it sautes up really quickly.
Make the most of your weekly meals by planning ahead and shopping wisely. Take some time on the weekend to do a couple of make ahead and wait to cook/bake meals so you're armed and ready to feed your family during the week. If the weekends are geared toward quality time with the kids, then bring them in the kitchen with you to cook and prep ~ just assign them age appropriate tasks. While you're spending that quality time with them you are also teaching them cooking basics they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Family Style Hearty Mac 'n Cheese ~ hope it becomes one of your go to recipes!


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