"Instant" Mac and Cheese – Thinking Outside the Box

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I’ve wanted to do another “one-pan” pasta video, where we cook everything right in the sauce, like we did in our famous Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula recipe, but then I happened to see someone eating mac and cheese on TV, and those plans changed.

I decided to adapt the same approach, and see what would happen if I cooked the macaroni right in the milk, before making the cheese sauce, and what happened was something just as creamy, cheesy, and delicious as recipes using more traditional techniques. Besides loving the taste, and texture, the whole procedure only took a few minutes longer than the boxed stuff; not to mention we avoided about a dozen ingredients we probably shouldn’t be eating.

This is a simple procedure, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. Be sure to turn your heat off as soon as the cheese has melted, or almost melted in. If you continue to cook the cheese it will separate and get grainy. Also, please buy high-quality cheddar, and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheeses are of lower quality, and the shreds are coated in a cellulose power that can give the final product an odd texture.

Thanks to being a little arrogant, and a lot delusional, I assumed I had stumbled on to some new, game-changing recipe here, only to find out that literally thousands of people had discovered this great trick way before me. Which is fine, since deep down I know I could’ve invented it, but simply didn’t need to. Regardless of who gets the credit, or which high-traffic YouTube chef eventually claims to have invented it, the technique works quite well, as so I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon fine salt), plus more to taste
pinch of cayenne
pinch of dried mustard, optional (I didn’t add, but many people do)
very small pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup small elbow macaroni
2 packed cups freshly grated cheddar cheese (about 6 to 8 ounce by weight)

For the panko topping:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
- Cook crumbs in the butter over medium heat until golden brown.

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