If you tell me that you are the boxed macaroni person, I will shun you. I mean it, I literally will. Or I will until I decide that I simply must convert you by feeding you home-cooked macaroni and cheese. My mom never made my sister and I boxed macaroni and cheese; the first thing my sister learned to make on the stove was this macaroni and cheese, and it was the first and only thing she taught me to make. I didn’t eat boxed macaroni and cheese until I went backpacking when I was ten (and didn’t eat it…I didn’t actually eat boxed mac ‘n cheese until three years ago, when I went to college and it was somebody’s idea that it would be fun to make it instead of eating dining hall food). So you’ll understand if I have a bit of an issue with people who eat boxed mac ‘n cheese. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, except that the cheese is powdered. And it really doesn’t taste anything like real macaroni and cheese, which is possibly the greatest comfort food I know.
It is also the best pre-race day carbo-loading fest I have ever imagined. My sister made it for me the night before my half marathon this summer, and boy was I sustained the next day. Everyone talks about carbo-loading before races, and this usually brings to mind piles of pasta – but as many sports/nutrition writers have pointed out, this often leaves out the key ingredient of protein. While protein post-intensive workouts is usually considered to be the best, protein is still what makes you feel full at the end of a meal, and what sustains you and your muscles as you go crazy running down a mountain (oh, what, that’s only me? Okay, well…whatever floats your boat).
So now that I’ve given you all the sports nutrition information that I know – go make this dish! It’s a kid-pleaser, for sure. This was 100% my favorite dish as a kid – I’m still hoping my sister will make it at Thanksgiving for me (it’s tough to be a vegetarian on a holiday that prides itself on the meat course). Unless your kids don’t like cheese or are lactose intolerant, I virtually guarantee that this will be appealing to them. Furthermore, it’s easy to dial up or down the fat content by using skim milk instead of whole or 2%. Add a side salad, and it’s still a great meal, even when you’re an adult (which I am not, by the way. I’m liminally stuck between being a child who loves her mac and cheese and an adult who must feed children her mac and cheese…and mournfully eat none of it herself. Fortunately, in the mean time, I can make mac and cheese for myself and allow it to be a guilty pleasure). Macaroni and Cheese (Courtesy of my mom!)
8 oz macaroni pasta
Splash of skim milk
1/2 tbsp butter
Freshly grated cheddar cheese (mild, medium, or sharp, depending on your preference)
Parmesan cheese, or other cheeses as desired to flavor the macaroni differently
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a medium-sized pot of water (2/3 full) to a roiling boil. Add the macaroni noodles and turn the heat to medium. Cover and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Test the noodles; when satisfactorily cooked, pour into a strainer. Pour the noodles back into the pan. Add a splash of milk and heat on low. Stir in the butter, making sure all of the noodles are coated. Gradually mix in the cheese, stirring to coat the noodles in cheese. The cheese should be melty and stringy when the noodles are separated. Add as much cheese as desired, serve, and add salt and pepper to taste.