There is just nothing better than a big old serving of mac and cheese with your name on it. I mean really, is there any other food that feels as good in your mouth or makes your taste buds as happy as super cheesy, extra creamy mac and cheese? I think not! So when I decided that I wanted a mac and cheese recipe that was reasonably inexpensive to prepare, contained no meat (bacon, prosciutto, etc.) and could be prepared ahead of time and not lose all its wonderful cheesy goodness, I decided to turn to the internet, my favorite recipe source. I found several recipes that looked good, but the one I liked the best was on the Taste of Home website. I made a few minor changes here and there but frankly, this is the best mac and cheese I have ever tasted. I love that it can be made ahead. I also love that it is vegetarian.
And I know, Patti cooking with Velveeta! It doesn’t happen often, but even processed cheese has its uses once in awhile. And this is one of those times when you just have to bite the bullet and put that bright yellow box of Velveeta in your cart. I usually cover it up while I do the rest of my shopping. Then when I check- out, I pretend it jumped into my cart of its own accord. Then when the clerk asks me if I want it returned to the shelves I say something like “oh no, that’s ok, I don’t want to cause any inconvenience for anyone”. I’m sure the clerk sees through my little charade, but the two times or so a year I actually buy Velveeta, I feel I simply must stick to this childish ruse.
And while I’m justifying to all of you why I use Velveeta occasionally, I should share the only other recipe I make that contains this processed ingredient. Please see my favorite recipe for Queso Dip under Appetizer Recipes.
- 1/2 c. butter
- 1/3 c. flour
- 1 1/2 c. milk
- 8 oz. Velveeta, cubed
- 1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- freshly grated black pepper
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 c. low fat sour cream
- 4 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 c. (8-oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 c. reserved pasta water
- paprika, opt.
Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth and bubbly. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Allow sauce to burble for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Velveeta, Parmesan, salt, pepper, mustard, and sour cream until smooth and cheese is melted. Cook pasta to al dente in boiling salted water, drain (reserving about a cup of pasta water)* and add to the sauce along with the cheddar cheese. (If the sauce seems too thick add enough of the reserved pasta water to reach desired consistency.) Spoon the mixture into a buttered 9×13-inch dish. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. (The photo below is a double batch.)
Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Let mac and cheese sit about 5-7 minutes before serving.
*If you are preparing the mac and cheese ahead of time, drain the pasta and run cold water over it until it is room temperature. Drain again and add to the sauce along with the cheddar cheese. Stir well. (The cheddar cheese will completely melt when it is baking.) Spoon the mixture into a buttered 9×13-inch dish. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover and refrigerate until about 2 hours before you want to serve. (Taking the dish out of the refrigerator ahead of time allows the pasta to come close to room temperature before popping it in a hot oven.) Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.