When I was a kid, I used to love going to my friends' houses for dinner. Since I was a vegetarian, their moms never knew what to feed me, and inevitably ended up making the blue box of macaroni and cheese. This was particularly exciting for me because my mom NEVER made it. She always made mac and cheese from scratch, and me being a bratty kid, of course wanted it from the box. Obviously I now see the error of my ways, and I am no longer a fan of the blue box, but Velveeta Shells and Cheese remains as my biggest guilty pleasure. Which is why I've never been tempted to try a stove top version of macaroni and cheese. If I had an emergency craving, I would just turn to the box. But this homemade version comes together in just about the same amount of time, and while it's certainly not healthy, at least it's not full of additives, chemicals, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.
And can one ever have too many macaroni and cheese recipes? I think not. There are just so many varieties, you see. So even if you have a really really good classic variation, it's always nice to have other options as well. You know, just in case you have a specific cheese craving. This particular dinner was born out of necessity. I am usually pretty good about sticking to my menu plan, but one night for some reason or another my planned dinner fell through. So as I surveyed the pantry and fridge, I noticed that I had everything I needed for macaroni and cheese, but we were all hungry, and didn't want to wait long to eat.
Enter stove-top mac and cheese. It's embarrassingly quick and easy, and as I'm about to tell you, this recipe is open to so many variations. I got this recipe from Annie, who used called for a combination of Gouda and Parmesan, and also called for Greek yogurt. She got the recipe from Shanon, who used Emmenthal and creme fraiche. And I used Fontina, Parmesan, and Ricotta. I'd imagine you could make more variations as well: Gruyere, cheddar,Swiss, Monterey Jack, maybe even Brie... the possibilities really are endless.
More Mac & Cheese Love
Classic Macaroni and Cheese
Fonitina, Mushroom, and Prosciutto Shells and Cheese
Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese
Shrimp and Feta Macaroni and Cheese
Fontina Shells and Cheese
Italian-Style Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
significantly adapted from Macaroni and Cheese, via Annie's Eats and The Curvy Carrot
- 12 oz. dried pasta shapes (smaller shapes work best)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs minced shallot
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp dried mustard
- 8 oz shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
- 2 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream
- 4 oz. Ricotta cheese (full-fat or part-skim are both fine)
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
- salt and pepper to taste
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water (I used to always forget to save the water, so now I put a measuring cup in the strainer while the pasta is cooking, so I don't forget).
Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the garlic, shallot, mustard, and nutmeg. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring well between each addition. Stir in the ricotta, butter, and milk, and stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy and smooth, adding the reserved pasta water if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.