Kraft Dinner, known as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the United States and Cheesey Pasta in the United Kingdom, is a macaroni and cheese convenience food that requires minimal preparation by the consumer. The original product, a packaged dry macaroni and cheese mix, was introduced in 1937 by the company now known as Kraft Foods. It is now available in several other formulations….The timing of the product’s launch had much to do with its success. During World War II, rationing of milk and dairy products, and an increased reliance on meatless entrees, created a nearly captive market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families. Kraft Dinner is seen as inexpensive, easy to make comfort food, with marketing to highlight its value and convenience.
There is no denying that the boxed macaroni dinners are easy and convenient, a hit with kids, especially — and those of us who remember our inner kid 😉
Many folks consider “real” macaroni and cheese to be the baked casserole. I’ve tried making that a time or two, but it’s never seemed to turn out well — it is not a dish I have a knack for.
One day, though, I decided to try making my own, easy stove-top version of macaroni and cheese. My dear boy asked me what we were having for supper one night, and I mentioned macaroni and cheese as one of the meal components. He looked in the pantry and, not seeing the boxed dinner, gave me a quizzical look, to which I responded, “We have macaroni, and milk, and butter, and cheese, so theoretically, at least, I should be able to make macaroni and cheese.”
And yes, the experiment turned out quite well — and was easy to do.
I’ve been making my own stove-top mac and cheese ever since. 🙂
It’s fairly easy to adjust the number of servings based on the amount of pasta you make; just adjust the amount of milk, butter/margarine, and cheese accordingly. Using a variety of cheeses (when you have a few different kinds on hand) helps add a depth of flavor, as well (and is also a handy way to use up different kinds of odds and ends of cheese). By using reduced-fat milk, lesser amount of butter/margarine, and making a goodly portion of the cheese reduced-fat, this homemade version is also a bit lighter and lower in fat that
Want to give yourself a real treat? Use leftover homemade queso as all or part of the cheese 🙂
If you want to boost the nutrition further, use high fiber pasta or whole wheat/multi-grain pasta. Elbow macaroni is traditional for macaroni and cheese because the hollow shape is perfect container for the yummy cheese sauce, but you can use another pasta if you prefer — shells, rotini, penne, whatever you want and have on hand.
However you make it, it’s yummy, be it as a side dish, main dish, or as component of a casserole.
Easy Stove-Stop Macaroni and Cheese (This makes anywhere from 3 to 6 servings, depending upon whether you eat it as a main or a side; you can easily adjust number of servings based on amount of pasta)
- 6 to 7 ounces of macaroni or other pasta of choice
- 6 to 12 ounces or so of a variety of cheese(s) of choice (I like to have about 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of cheese per ounce of pasta; you can use more or less to taste): about 2/3 to 3/4 of the cheese should be 2% Veleveeta or sliced American cheese because it melts so well; add in a bit of whatever other kind of sliced, cubed, or grated cheese you like — cheddar, Monterrey Jack, mozzarella, Swiss, whatever sounds good to you and you have on hand
- Approximately 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- Milk to taste (1% works fine) as needed (probably 1/2 cup or so — I don’t measure, I just splash it in)
- Cook pasta in boiling water. Note 1: Reduced-fat cheese is often a bit salty, so I don’t salt the pasta water. Note 2: If I’m using the macaroni and cheese as part of a casserole, meaning it will be cooked further, I cook the pasta very al dente.
- Drain water. Add in a the margarine, a splash of milk, and the cheese.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring as needed, until cheese and butter melt and a sauce forms, adding more milk as necessary. (Mixture will thicken upon standing.)
I’m betting you’ll like it even better than the Blue Box standard — and it’s almost as quick and easy!