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Learn to Cook: Mac and Cheese (with Mix Ins!)

Nothing says “childhood” like a big bowl of creamy mac and cheese. Come to think of it, as one of the ultimate comfort foods, mac and cheese also says, “long day at the office”, “cold blistery night” and “heartbreak recovery”.

We’ve got great recipes for mac and cheese online, but when it came to one super simple method for making everybody's favorite comfort food this recipe elbowed its way to the top. What’s really comforting about this recipe is that although it may taste rich, you don’t have to be to make it. Using just four basic ingredients – milk, flour, cheese and macaroni – you can create macaroni magic in mere minutes. Here’s how:

Learn to Cook: Mac & CheeseLearn to Cook: Mac and Cheese


  • 1 pound whole wheat or regular elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound grated cheddar cheese, about 2 cups
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta well.
While macaroni cooks, whisk together milk and flour in a medium pot. Bring milk mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. It should be about the consistency of heavy whipping cream, so reduce the heat and gently simmer for a minute or so, stirring often, if it needs more time to thicken.
Remove pot from the heat and gently stir in grated cheddar, one handful at a time, until the sauce is smooth. Stir in salt and black pepper.
Add pasta, stir well and serve.
Transform this creamy dish into a baked favorite by transferring finished mac and cheese to an oiled baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and more grated cheese, and bake at 350°F until melted and golden.

Serves 6.

Tip and Tricks
The mac and cheese can stand alone but it’s also a dish that gets even better when you add things in. Consider stirring in different veggies, cheeses or meats to oomph up the nutrition and make this dish grand. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Thinly sliced kale, spinach or Swiss chard

  • Steamed broccoli florets

  • Diced heirloom tomatoes

  • Small pieces of goat milk Brie (a Sure Deal! at only $3.99)

  • Blue cheese crumbles

  • Chopped smoked salmon

  • Cooked crab cakes, broken into pieces

  • Diced cooked meatballs (download a coupon in the fall issue of The Whole Deal)

  • Shredded barbeque or rotisserie chicken

  • Frozen vegetable blends

Hungry for more meals that comfort both your taste buds and your budget? Turn to The Whole Deal value guide for money-saving tips, recipes, weekly menu ideas, Sure Deals and more than $50 in coupons.

Have you mastered homemade mac and cheese with mix-ins? How do you serve it?

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Megan says …

Cauliflower "mac n' cheese"!! Looks and tastess like the real deal, but without the noodles..replaced by healthy cauliflower! Here's how: Saute 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets, in a little olive oil (2 tbsp is plenty) until fork-tender. In separate saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 3 tbsp flour and 1.5 c milk until combined and begins to thicken. Turn heat to low and add 1/2 c heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 c grated cheese (cheddar or monterey jack works well) and mix until cheese incorporates and begins to melt. Remove from heat. Dump cauliflower in slow cooker, add 2 tbsp butter. Pour in cheesy mixture and add a squeeze of dijon mustard or hot sauce (optional) and stir. Cook on low setting for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until cheese is bubbly. Top with a little extra shredded cheese and serve.

Beverly Armstrong says …

The adult mac n cheese...gotta have Hatch green chiles!!! Ymmmm! Warm and comforting for sure!

Anna Crosby says …

So easy and so much tastier! I've got a three cheese version here http://www.toddler-recipes.co.uk/quick-macaroni-cheese.html. Ten minutes to make and tastes pretty good with some poached salmon mixed in.

Jennifer Fischer says …

The cauliflower mac n cheese made my list of 30+ veggie kid-friendly meals as did Butternut Squash Mac NCheese, which just might be my favorite. I plan to try a vegan version soon. http://jennifischer.blogspot.com/2012/09/meatless-monday-eating-alphabet-from-z.html

Bernadine says …

I'd really like to get the recipe for the mac & cheese I purchased on the hot food line at the West Lane Whole Foods in Columbus, OH. Is there any way I can get it?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BERNADINE - I would suggest checking with that store specifically as the Prepared Foods department might be able to provide their recipe. You can reach them directly at 614.481.3400.

Vivian says …

Is there a gluten-free version of this? I can use rice pasta in place of the wheat macaroni, but for the all-purpose flour, what type of flour can be used instead?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@VIVIAN - Yes! Rice pasta would be a good sub for the noodles. Check with your local store to see if they carry a gluten free all purpose flour in their grocery department. Typically we should have a few options for GF all purpose flour that your store can recommend. Since our products vary between locations, they can let you know what they carry. You can find their contact info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.