I’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect creamy Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I’ve had one too many recipes where the sauce is lumpy or the grease separates and I’m left disappointed.
Macaroni and cheese is a big deal for me. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve macaroni and cheese……..macaroni and cheese from a box that is.
In kindergarten, we all got a take a turn bringing home the classroom stuffed bear for a play date. What did I do with the stuffed bear when it was my turn? Treat him to my favorite meal: macaroni and cheese. My mother served us both a plate of Velveeta shells and cheese in our backyard. I can still vividly remember getting to help the bear finish his plate, too.
I wasn’t loyal to just Velveeta, I also loved Kraft. My grandmother always had the blue box stocked in her pantry. Whenever my brother and I were staying with her, we would run into the pantry to grab a box at lunchtime. My brother and I would always fight over who got more, but somehow my grandmother could magically dish two bowls with exactly the same amount of macaroni. I would savor each macaroni noodle coated in fluorescent, creamy, salty cheese sauce.
Fast forward a few decades and we buy an amazing cookbook: The Best Light Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve been using ATK recipes for years, and they have never lead me astray, so I was thrilled to find that they had some lower calorie recipes. I decided to take a chance on their macaroni and cheese, and of course, their streak of great recipes continued. Finally, I had my smooth and creamy sauce that was made with real cheese. Dreams really do come true.
While the ATK version is pretty perfect, I’ve never been one to leave a good recipe alone. With this version of the recipe, I’ve made a few changes with the spices, and subbed in smoked cheddar to give the recipe a little extra complexity. I also like to thicken the sauce with tapioca flour instead of cornstarch. I like working with tapioca flour because I find it a little easier to not get lumps.
This dish is great on its own, as a side, or delicious with some broccoli mixed in!
This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen The Best Light Recipe.
8 ounces (dry) macaroni elbows
12 ounces nonfat evaporated milk
¾ cups nonfat milk (divided)
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
4 ounces smoked cheddar, shredded
2 ounces lite mozzarella, shredded
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ancho or chipotle powder
- Cook macaroni according to packaging. While macaroni is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce in a separate saucepan.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk and mix with the tapioca flour and set aside.
- In the separate saucepan, combine remaining milk and evaporated milk over medium heat and bring just to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and whisk in all of the seasonings followed by the tapioca mixture. This should thicken the mixture.
- Continue whisking and slowly add both the cheeses. Whisk until the cheeses are completely melted and incorporated.
- Remove from heat. Drain the macaroni very well, and add it to the sauce. You can also stir in any veggie or meat additions at this point.
Note on the cheese: If you can’t find smoked cheddar, any cheese that melts well will work great in this sauce. Typically cheeses that feel a little soft like cheddar, fontina, and gouda will melt nicely. Avoid hard aged cheeses like parmesan.