From-scratch Mac'n'Cheese in eight ingredients, one pot, and close to ten minutes. By simply leaving the pasta water in the pot with the pasta, and building your sauce off that, you can completely skip the slow and painful roux and bechamel-making process. That means all the goodness, and none of the waiting. If you have the energy for one extra pan, frying a slice of bacon to crumble in really takes the cake.
Note that these measurements are a bit loose--but this recipe is so adaptable that you really can't go wrong. Adjust to taste; it won't turn on you.
When you are sad, lonely, and tired of dishes, this Mac'n'Cheese, while not quite as gooey as baked varietals, will still be the creamy, cheesy, delicious salve your soul is looking for. I used odds and ends, but fancy cheeses or pasta shapes (or low-energy add-ins) are unlikely to go astray. —Danielle
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally, allow to boil again, and add your shells.
While the shells cook (5-6 min., or al dente minus 1 minute), mince your garlic and crumble your bacon. If cooking the bacon now, feel free to use rendered bacon fat to replace (or add to) the butter in the next steps.
When the pasta is done, carefully pour most but not all of the water out of the pot. The remaining pasta water should maybe half-cover your pasta.
Lower the heat to medium, and replace the pot of watery pasta. Add the milk, butter, garlic, and a dash of salt to taste. Remember that the pasta water is already salted a bit, so you won't need as much.
Keep at a vigorous simmer until it reduces to what will resemble a thin bechamel (this is the magic--the pasta water, butter, and milk allow you to skip the roux!!).
Stir in cheese and (optional) bacon, and continue to reduce over low until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. If you want to thin it, add a little milk.
Season or top with whatever you like, and inhale your molten cheesy bowl of comfort.