Making macaroni and cheese in an Instant Pot seemed, to me, counterintuitive at first thought. Wouldn't the noodles get all mushy, instead of remaining beautifully al dente? No, it turns out—not if you cook them for the perfect amount of time. Plus, after some testing, I realized I could infuse the actual pasta with way more flavor by cooking it directly in broth, cream, and Pecorino. Seriously: way more. A quick, stovetop-toasted panko topping keeps things nice and crispy-edged over on the textural front—feel free to dial up the cayenne if you like even more of kick! —Ella Quittner
fusilli (or other similar twisty shape), uncooked
large pinch powdered cayenne pepper
ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Finely chopped chives, for garnish (if using)
In This Recipe
Turn your multi-cooker on to its sauté setting (if your cooker has a timer component, set it to 15 minutes just to be safe, then hit cancel when you switch to pressure cooking mode) and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the pancetta, and sauté for a few minutes, until it crisps up on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove about a third of the crisped pancetta and set aside. Add the shallots to the cooker, and sauté in the rendered pancetta fat until they begin to turn translucent.
Add the milk, heavy cream, broth, Pecorino, salt, pepper, and pasta, and stir to combine well, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you mix. (The noodles won’t be fully submerged—that’s fine.) Put the lid on the cooker and turn to pressure cook mode on high for 5 minutes. (If you like your pasta less al dente, set it for 6 minutes.)
Meanwhile, on the stovetop, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a 10-inch or larger skillet (either cast iron or non-stick works), and add the cayenne. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the panko and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook all together over medium heat, constantly moving the panko around, until it’s midway between the color of graham crackers and the color of caramel. Set aside, off heat.
Once the pressure cooking is completed, let the multi-cooker naturally release pressure for 1 minute before carefully turning it to instant release. When the pressure has been fully released, open the lid, and immediately stir in the cheddar cheese, stirring until it fully melts. (If you need extra heat, turn it back to sauté mode for another few minutes. If you need additional moisture, add another splash of milk.) Adjust seasoning to taste, then serve in individual bowls topped with a few heaping spoonfuls of toasted panko, the reserved pancetta crisps, and the chives (if using).
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner.