It is OK to freely admit in this setting that one still harbours fond memories of the packaged macaroni and cheese from their formative years.
And it’s not just nostalgia; when the goopy mixture of noodles, milk, butter, and the cryptic sauce package mixes together to work its strange magic in a pot, there’s something genuinely alluring about it.
The buttery, salty porridge texture of boxed macaroni and cheese is best summed up by a statement from a native Italian I once made it for: “Why is it so bad, but so good?” It may not fully taste like cheese, per se, and we’re a little leery about shelf-stable dairy in general.
In spite of this, any boxed mac and cheese kit can be easily transformed into a dish of genuine gourmet grandeur with even a minimal amount of culinary expertise. For better results while cooking boxed macaroni and cheese, use one or more of the eight tips or additions listed below.
Save Adding Real Cheese or American Cheese
Pizza is a perfect example of how adding more cheese enhances an already cheese-filled dish. By including some real cheese, you can enhance the flavour and consistency of packaged mac and cheese:
Stretchy mozzarella, savoury and sweet notes from gruyere, traditional cheddar, and even depth and more salt from parmesan are all added. Or, to be honest, a few slices of American cheese work wonders for instant ramen noodles, so why not for mac and cheese? Even though this isn’t considered true cheese, it works wonders for mac and cheese.
Noodles Save Should Be Improved
The majority of mac and cheese kits use little macaroni noodles or shells to cut down on the amount of time required to cook the ingredients, and consequently, the amount of time between the time the craving first arises and the time it is satiated.
Anyone who recalls the occasionally-achievable ragged appearance of boxed macaroni and cheese knows that smaller noodles are simpler to overcook. Choose al dente pasta and reserve the macaroni for a truly amazing piece of art. With any longer, more robust noodle, such as rotini, penne, or campanelle, the texture can be improved.
Use the Milk Save in Its Place
For the purpose of mixing the butter and sauce, the milk in macaroni and cheese packages just serves as a liquid. However, because you’ve already decided to eat macaroni and cheese, how much does it really matter if it’s made using low-fat milk, which does help keep it on the healthier side nutritionally?
Richer dairy options, such as whole milk or, horrors!, heavy cream, can accentuate the condition. Using sour cream or cream cheese, you can give your richness a little acidity.
Combine the Vegetables
Is it just me, or does everyone always order their mac and cheese with a side of salad or vegetables to make the meal feel more “balanced”? Yes? Just like peas and carrots, macaroni and cheese and broccoli are a classic combination. Tossing a few robust vegetables into the boiling water for the last minute or two before draining is a low-maintenance approach to include them right into your mac & cheese.
If you have the means for a second pot or skillet, sautéed or roasted vegetables will enhance the flavour even further. Cauliflower, roasted peppers, or even butternut squash are also up to the challenge. Other green veggies besides broccoli, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus, make simple bedfellows.
The same is true with macaroni and cheese: herbs boost a dish’s flavour and colour without significantly increasing its bulk or caloric content.
Try using standard suspects like parsley or basil; you could even add a little pesto for a herb and garlic boost. A tarragon or chervil herb, a mix like herbes de Provence, or even a departure from your regular flavours can bring intrigue to a pantry staple.