I found this recipe long ago and can’t believe I’m just now making it. The neat thing about this recipe, is you simmer the noodles in the milk instead of using water then adding it at the end. It’s cheesy and the mustard gives it a nice depth of flavor. It still doesn’t top the blue box for me (I know, I know but I just can’t help that I love it so much) but it is a great homemade alternative. I also made it a bit lighter by using skim milk, reduced fat cheese, and whole wheat pasta. Feel free to go that route or use full fat ingredients for a super indulgent and decadent meal or side dish. This can also be baked as well which I opted not to do but I think would be really delicious. As a side dish this makes about enough for 4 people with no leftovers, so I would double it if you are having company over. *Since some of you have had a few issues with this recipe, I have added in some notes and edited the recipe below slightly on 6.13.12*
2 cups dried pasta
2 1/2 cups skim milk**
1 cup loosely packed cheddar cheese, shredded by hand
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dijon mustard, can omit and substitute nutmeg instead (for either, start with a little and add more to taste)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.
Turn heat off, add cheese & salt & and stir to combine. Stir in the mustard or nutmeg & cayenne a little at a time, to taste. Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir.
If you would like to bake it at this point, place in a baking dish and top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until cheese has melted.
As a side dish this makes enough for 4 people with no leftovers (can easily be doubled).
*This recipe is a bit tricky and depends greatly on the kind of cheese and noodles you use. I have found that the shells work better than the elbow macaroni as they don’t absorb as much of the milk. It also depends greatly on the heat of your stove.
*Hand shredding the cheese instead of using pre-shredded bagged cheese works better in this recipe as it melts easier and helps some with the graininess. Also, this recipe is best eaten right away and not as good when reheated.
*Also, I’ve found that mac & cheese can depend greatly on your personal preference. Some like creamy, some like baked, others like cheesy. I love thinner, cheesier mac & cheese that is more like the blue box. For that reason, this recipe is my new favorite and go-to mac & cheese recipe. For those that love a thicker, heartier mac & cheese, then this one is the one for you.
*Several commenters below have loved adding broccoli, diced tomatoes or jalapeno to give the mac & cheese a little more zing and amped up flavor. Also to help with the creaminess several have added in a bit of cream cheese or yogurt.
**Edited 6.13.12: I remade this recipe and found that by starting with 2 1/2 cups milk, the mac & cheese was a better consistency and didn’t get so thick.