Ridiculously Easy Macaroni and Cheese

By • January 21, 2010 • 73 Comments



Author Notes: On nights when we have 20 minutes to fix dinner, this is invariably what I make. Am I embarrassed to say I use individually-wrapped American cheese? Not really. This dish is so easy your kids can help you -- or even make it themselves if they're old enough.mrslarkin

Food52 Review: WHO: How do we love thee, mrslarkin? Let us count the ways.
WHAT: A no-fuss, comforting pasta that’s true to its name.
HOW: Cook pasta; melt cheese in hot cream; toss; destroy.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This pasta doesn’t pussyfoot around. And why should it? It’s mac and cheese, straight up -- just like we ate as kids, and just what we want to eat for dinner, or lunch, or midnight snacks well into the future. Don’t you dare try to fancy this up.
A&M

Serves 4 or more

  • 1 pound elbows, mini shells, mini ziti, or your favorite macaroni shape
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 8 to 10 slices individually-wrapped yellow American cheese (yup, the plastic-wrapped kind -- a better quality brand if you can find it, like Cabot's)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup full-fat grated cheddar or cheddar blend
  • 8 slices crispy bacon, roughly chopped (optional)
  1. Cook pasta to al dente. Drain. Set aside.
  2. Heat cream in same pasta pot over medium low heat. Remove plastic wrap from cheese and add to pot. Stir. Add remaining cheese and stir until melted.
  3. Taste for desired cheesiness. If not cheesy enough, add another slice or two of American cheese. If too thick, add another splash of cream.
  4. Return cooked pasta to pot and mix well with a gentle hand. Scoop into pasta bowls and serve with bacon sprinkled on top, if desired.

Tags: Easy, kid-friendly, macaroni and cheese, One-Pot Wonders, pasta, quick

Comments (73) Questions (1)

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My_catering_(2)

24 days ago Aliwaks

Yay Mrs. L... American Cheese makes the best stovetop Mac & Cheese..I want this now (though I use the deli sliced kind, because I am too lazy to unwrap all the slices) ... I have been thinking about making my own processed cheese, I'll let you know how it works.

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24 days ago dymnyno

Artisan processed cheese? I love the concept! Keep us posted on how it turns out.

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about 1 month ago Erin

I'm in the same boat as tammater and blythe, no offense, I just don't get it. Plastic wrapped cheese food product (how it is obligated to be labeled where I live) makes no sense to me, the texture is sticky which is gross, the addition of actual cheese does help to combat this, but how in anyway is this easier, quicker, healthier, or in any way an improvement on boxed mac and cheese? I don't get the recipe at all. Why not just create a proper cheese sauce for you pasta? It takes less than 5 minutes to throw together, contains 4 ingredients (butter, flour, milk or cream, and cheese) and if you have a grater attachment for your food processor (best thing ever), 30 seconds to prep. This is in no way easier or better than a proper cheese sauce, nor is it cheaper (same amount of cheese in my cheese sauce, and I don't buy the extra cheese food product). I seriously just don't get it. Am dumbfounded.

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about 1 month ago Erin

Just rechecked the recipe, mine has waaaay more cheese than yours. Will have to remake tonight and see. Still will hold on to the dumbfounded.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Measuring grated cheese can be tricky. Do try it again, Erin. You might like it better. When I make baked mac and cheese, I'll always make a bechamel sauce. That is some rockin' mac and cheese!

FYI, this recipe uses way less cheese than the top two mac and cheese recipes on the site. 1/4 cup of grated cheese is roughly about 1 ounce. 10 slices of american cheese (about 210 grams, sometimes less) weighs in at about 7 ounces. Including the parmigiano and the cheddar, this recipe uses about 9 ounces of cheese in total.

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about 1 month ago Sherry Blake

Velveeta works great - has more zip than American - a good recipe and wonderfully easy to make. Thank you!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

You're welcome, Sherry. Glad you like it.

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about 1 month ago mlsparks

I tried this last night and was thrilled with the result. Very similar to the way my mom used to make it and I love it. Also, the boyfriend was incredibly pleased too and gave it the highest compliments. Served it with BBQ chicken and an heirloom tomato salad. Yummy yummy, thanks for the wonderful recipe!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

So glad you enjoyed it, mlsparks!

Dscn2212

about 1 month ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

A recipe from 4 1/2 years ago, with a hilariously high sodium content, not to mention fat, not to mention no technique? This has Taste of Home written all over it.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Last time i checked, boiling, melting, stirring, mixing and scooping are techniques. Oh, and you forgot all the carbs from the pasta. :)

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about 1 month ago dymnyno

I don't think that there is any cheese on earth that is considered health food. But in moderation it is a good source of calcium. When I make/eat Mac n Cheese I don't worry myself about the "bad" stuff...just the creamy delicious taste of fat and pasta!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Well said, dymnyno.

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about 1 month ago mac

Geez, I don't think anyone was putting their nose up...take a deep breath & you might have your spell check work on "professional"...variations are nice to try in recipes...have owned a catering business for years...not a stranger to cheese...I don't think this is a blog site for raggin' on others views...they are just questions, simply questions, or suggestions which we can all learn from....even the "professionals!"..

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about 1 month ago Chef Patrick

OMG people just try the recipe the way it is. You might actually like it and I bet you will be surprised at the taste and creaminess. I am a profesiinal chef and I can tell you that all that FANCY cheese so many of think make it the best and that "American Cheese" is not good make your own. I have worked with MASTER Chefs from Europe and all over the world and you would be surprised how many items you put your nose up at, that they use because THEY have tested it and it has a purpose and IT WORKS.

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about 1 month ago Gaille Robertson

I wouldn't be so uppity about using cheese slices. I remember a time in my life when my kids were little and cheese slices might have been all I had in the house!! Back in the day though, I used Velveeta for mac and cheese. Melts like a dream and tastes really cheesy. My kids' favorite mac and cheese used Velveeta, a can of tomato soup and 2 soup cans of milk. Stir it up and pop it in the oven 'til bubbly and a little browned on the top. I mean, come ON -- who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup??? Same flavor experience! I make it to this day, even though my youngest kids are now 30.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Omg that sounds so good, Gaille!

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about 1 month ago Tammi Whittaker

I've always put tomato soup in my cheese sauce for Mac & Cheese, just like my Mom did. When I lived in Florida my neighbors called it Michigan Mac & Cheese!

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about 1 month ago mac

what is the ratio for using all grated cheeses to equal the wrapped cheese? sounds so good, but would prefer to use the grated gruyere thanks much

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

1 slice of American cheese is about 3/4 ounce.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Or 21 grams. Sorry, forgot to include metric!

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about 1 month ago Blythe mayne

American Cheese Slices? Should be outlawed. Foodstuff. Doesn't seem to fit the mission of this website which is all about quality. Mr. Choi uses American Cheese because he's a contrarian and is famous enough to get away with it - but I would never use it or consume it. Why, when there is real cheese???

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

It tastes good, that's why. But if you get wigged out by American cheese, use some other melty cheese, like cheddar.

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about 1 month ago Brady Klopfer

You'll notice, Blythe, that this is an entry in the contest for best CHEAP feast.

I think all foodies can agree that American cheese slices are poor quality cheese. However, not everyone can afford nice quality cheese, and part of the beauty of cheap cooking is finding ways to elevate ingredients, so that you can make a delicious meal out of less-than-ideal components.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Exactly, Brady. Wouldn't it be funny if American cheese was an item in the Chopped basket? I wonder if it's ever been done?

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about 1 month ago Brady Klopfer

I hope so, Mrs. Larkin! I know I'd have fun with that basket!

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about 1 month ago tamater sammich

I'm with you. We're all entitled to our opinion, right? So to Kraft wrapped slices, let me be another to register one big YUCK. Somebody here mentioned that this thread was supposed to reflect making food on the cheap. Well I'm not rich by any stretch, and can think of a gazillion healthier ways to feed my family on what those slices cost. Like a simple sauce, caramelized onion, herbs (that grow like weeds in very little space). But whatevs, just my not so humble opinion.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Whatevs t. sammich, just don't yuck my yum.

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about 1 month ago tamater sammich

:D

Stringio

about 1 month ago dawnmarie.mott

I LOVE how you specify to "remove plastic wrap from cheese"!! Made this recipe even better!! :)

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Haha! Glad you noticed that! :)

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about 1 month ago Joanne LG

I love mac & cheese. 2 problems: can I use white cheese (Annatto gives me migraine headaches.) & I never seem to have heavy cream when I need it. I found a substitute: skim milk and melted butter in a 3/1 ratio. Hope it works.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Interesting about the migraines! White American cheese should work well, although I've never tried it. I'm a yellow American fan.

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about 1 month ago Bernadette

I love the recipes on this site but those individually wrapped slices are called "cheese food" and are not really cheese, so I'd be more apt to use velveeta, which seems more cheese like. Am I kidding myself?

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Yep, you are. Believe it or not, cheese food (Velveeta, American cheese slices, etc.) does actually involve cheese. It's all good, in moderation.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

P.s. Use the Velveeta, if you're more comfortable with that. It melts perfectly, and tastes great.

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about 1 month ago Midge

Congrats mrslarkin! I've never been ashamed of my deep love for American cheese and I can't wait to try this.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Thanks Midge!

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about 1 month ago Rachel Wolfson

Now, you're making me crave mac and cheese Mrs. Larkin! thanks for the recipe!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

You're welcome Rachel!

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about 1 month ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Look, Liz, you're on the cutting edge. (Even Roy Vhoi uses American cheese.)
http://nyti.ms/1kLd9nD

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about 1 month ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oops, that was Choi.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Ha! I'm one of the cool kids.

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about 1 month ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Well of course.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Moe Rubenzahl

OK, maybe you're not allowed to say it, but I can:
Velveeta.
There. I hope that didn't give anyone the creeps. Really, it's not so bad. Cheese, milk, and some ingredients to make it melty, and a few that have chemical-sounding names so people can sneer at it.

Kraft explains: "Regular Velveeta cheese contains milk, water, milk fat, whey, whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate. These ingredients make up the bulk of the product. Enzymes and cheese culture are included to aid in the manufacture of the cheese -- these ingredients are bacterial agents that determine the taste, texture and appearance of cheese products. Velveeta cheese contains alginate, an emulsifier found naturally in brown algae. Sodium citrate adds a tart flavor in addition to acting as a preservative and acidity regulator. Sodium phosphate functions similarly to extend the product's shelf life. Two ingredients give Velveeta cheese its distinct hue -- annatto, a yellow-orange color additive derived from the tropical achiote trees, and apocarotenal, an orange color additive derived from citrus fruits."

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

I love Velveeta!

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about 1 month ago Laney

Congrats Liz! When my kids were little, they had a babysitter named Mrs. Olsen who always made them mac and cheese using Velveeta. They're both in college now and still make it the same way but they will be all over yours...especially with the bacon.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Thanks Laney! I have fond childhood memories of Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches made on the grilled cheese press.

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about 1 month ago Sugartoast

Can't wait to try this! We make a similar version for the kids, but with just cream, grated gruyere, and lots of pepper. So easy & fast, and delicious. Thank you for sharing - love love love all your recipes!!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 1 month ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

You're welcome, Sugartoast!