Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You)

May 20, 2020
Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You) - Easy to make from scratch and and so much better than anything from a box

Midweek Inspiration No. 14: The Sweetest Advice

Photo Credit: Tales For Tadpoles

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“ ‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh when we were underneath it?’

‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this.”    ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

— — —

At the beginning of April, I started a new job.

While it's one of the best turns of events that ever could have happened, the first few weeks were really hard.  Admittedly, I was a huge bundle of nerves and felt more anxious than I had in a very long time.

There was the worry of understanding everything, learning the group's social norms, remembering people's names, voices, and nuances.  Not to mention the backdrop of a pandemic, which will make even the calmest person's heart pound.

Before long, I found myself tongue-tied, fretting about saying something wrong or weird, and seeming to forget everything I knew(!)  It was terrible.

That is, until one night over dinner, my husband suggested a trick that turned everything around

May 2020

“Have you ever noticed that when you talk to your friend, your entire demeanor changes?  Within minutes, you're confident, peaceful, and calm.”

“Really?”

“Why don't you put her picture on your desk?  When you're feeling off or nervous, just pretend you're talking to her”

It's funny how such a small thing can make such a huge difference.  At the start of my days, I'll settle into my cozy office chair and start telling her things.  Whatever the worries of the day are – the presentation I'm working on, the pets, my family, my friends, my husband, random passersby on the street, what's for lunch

And within minutes, I feel more present and ready for whatever the day holds.

— —

And for fellow worriers out there, I'm sending you a big hug!  Being a human is really hard, but somehow we'll muddle through together .. xx

Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You) - Easy to make from scratch and and so much better than anything from a box Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You) - Easy to make from scratch and and so much better than anything from a box

Today, stovetop macaroni and cheese

One of the first things people ask is, “What have you been cooking during these challenging times?”  My answer?  “We've been keeping things as simple as possible.”

A few weeks ago, at my second home (the grocery), I was passing through the macaroni and cheese section and thought, “Man, does that ever sound good!”  So I bought a box, made it for dinner with the requisite roasted veggies/salad on the side

It was amazing and hit the spot in the way only something warm and nostalgic can.  A meal from childhood that lived up to every hope I'd had and more.

What's a soul to do when a craving for stovetop pasta with a sauce of melty cheese is so intense that nothing else will satisfy?  You can't begin a long slide into the habit of the boxed stuff, nor live a life devoid of the meal it creates.

If you're in the market for a decadent, show-stopping, mac and cheese with buttery baked crumbs on top, Bittman's is pretty great, and I made it for years when the kids were still at home.  Another flagged as a favorite comes from the New York Times and includes a miraculous hack (you don’t even pre-boil the pasta), but spends a significant amount of time in the oven.

This isn’t for any of those times.

This is for twenty minutes from now, all in one pot, with ingredients you already have in the pantry.  Its true beauty lies in the fact that it offers whatever the day requires.  When the craving has passed, you can return to a life of leafy greens, or, you know, do it again tomorrow.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You) - Easy to make from scratch and and so much better than anything from a box Stovetop Mac and Cheese (I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You) - Easy to make from scratch and and so much better than anything from a box

A few notes about cheese

I've always thought of mac and cheese as the savory equivalent to chocolate chip cookies – everybody has very strong opinions about their cheese (or blend of cheeses).  If strong preferences abound, by all means, use whatever you like

As for us?  I'm firmly in the sharp cheddar camp, with a handful of parmesan for good measure.  Sharp, because the extra flavor is always a win.  And cheddar, because it’s hard to beat a classic.

There's only one non-negotiable piece of cheese advice.  Always, always, always use freshly-grated in your mac and cheese.  The vast majority of pre-shredded offerings have a coating that prevents them from melting smoothly.  While it’s a bit of extra work, you'll be so glad you did

Really Enjoy!

xoxo

~ Adapted from The Kitchn

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried short pasta (gluten-free is great too)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup milk, divided (2% or whole)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp flour (potato starch is a nice substitute if you're avoiding gluten)
  • sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated cheese, at room temp (see notes, above)

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Return pot to stove and melt butter, along with ½ cup milk, whisking frequently.
  • Meanwhile, place the remaining ½ cup of milk and flour in a small bowl and whisk together until there aren't any lumps.
  • When you just start to see wisps of steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-and-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream (~ 3-4 minutes)
  • Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Remove from heat and add grated cheese and pasta until combined. Stir until the pasta is evenly coated.
Serves: 4
Nutrition + Show
Rating:
Calories 245
Total Fat 13.2g
Carbohydrates 22.3g
Fiber 3g
Sugars 1.5g
Protein 12.1g
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16 Comments

  • Reply Emma May 20, 2020 at 2:16 am

    This really rings true – the importance of your thoughts when you’re alone and being gently kind to yourself. Thank you for your writing, it makes me feel less alone in the struggle today.

  • Reply heydave May 20, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    5 stars
    We see the difference and it’s getting better all the time!
    Simple mac ‘n’ cheese has been elevated.

  • Reply Ann May 20, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    This post bought back so many great memories. Many, many years ago, when my children were growing up Mac and Cheese was a favorite. However, I never used the box. I boiled elbow macaroni, when done I added milk, margarine and velveeta cheese until it was a consistency that I was happy with. It was always delicious and my kids loved it!

  • Reply Kelley May 20, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    During the pandemic, my mantra has been:

    “this is how it feels now,
    it’s okay that I’m worried,
    I will feel better tomorrow or maybe the next day,
    I can make it until then.”

    Be well, and big hugs, my far away friend!

  • Reply Tina May 21, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    What would happen if, say, I made this, sprinkled it with a mix of Panko and grated Parmigiano, and put it in the oven for a brief interlude?

  • Reply Alanna May 22, 2020 at 11:20 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve made this now twice in 2 days, we love love love it!!! xo

  • Reply Jenn May 23, 2020 at 8:12 am

    Ali, you’re a life saver! This is AMAZING, the toddlers in my house love it, and I feel like a good Mom. I heart you so much!

  • Reply David May 25, 2020 at 11:27 am

    5 stars
    I always love a good stove top mac and cheese. It’s simple and it still tastes quite delicious. I will have to try this recipe out. As for the new job, congrats on getting into a new job. I will have to find out all about it when I get the chance to chat with you. It’s been crazy here. I can’t even begin to describe. But glad you and your husband are well. And I’m so looking forward to when all this is over and we can get out there and enjoy our lives more. Best Wishes!

  • Reply Maggie May 25, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    5 stars
    I quadrupled the recipe and used half cheddar, half parmesan. It was sooo good! My husband, who previously said he didn’t think homemade could beat Annie’s, has requested I make it once a week. (Which would of course be totally excessive, but a nice sentiment!)

  • Reply Jess May 25, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    My mom, who is a calming force, recommends the phrase “this is not a story I need to tell myself” in moments of anxiety and when your mind is running away on you. It’s my go-to when I’m in a funk. Hope you’re having a nice Memorial Day weekend and sending good thoughts your way!

  • Reply Karrie June 4, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    I once took a class in public speaking. One of the best tricks I learned was, whenever you picture the worst-case scenario, balance it out with the best-case scenario. It’s helped me so much!

  • Reply Wendela June 5, 2020 at 2:18 am

    I love this so much! Thank you for this post ..

  • Reply Markie June 5, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Alison… I do this too. I carry a stuffed animal sometimes when I get anxious! I can see them peek though my bag and it works!

  • Reply Lauren June 5, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Something that has helped me a lot lately when I have anxious thoughts (often while trying to fall asleep at night) is I take a deep breath and imagine pushing the thought away with my exhale. The visual really helps me shut the spiral down, because I can’t think the thought if it’s gone on the wind, right?

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