No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese

No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese

I was thumbing through the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine the other night, and I hit the recipe jackpot.  Coming across their No-Boil Mac and Cheese recipe makes me feel so lucky, I’m tempted to go to Vegas.  You have to understand, I love making homemade macaroni and cheese, but obviously, there is some work involved.  Skipping the pasta boiling step is huge to me.  It means one less pot to wash and less time cooking too. This recipe may just help you think outside the box next time you want to make macaroni and cheese, meaning make it homemade and not from a box!  I’ll admit, I make boxed macaroni and cheese sometimes, too, but with this No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese recipe, I think I’ll be making it homemade a lot more often.  😀

As excited as I was about this recipe, I wondered if would stack up to the boiled pasta version.  I’ve had no-boil lasagna, and it was okay at best.  This no-boil macaroni and cheese, however, is creamy, cheesy, macaroni heaven.  You’d never know you skipped a step.  This is a 5-star mac and cheese, people.  To make matters even better, there is a buttery panko breadcrumb topping that adds a wonderful crunchy texture to the creaminess.  It’s 5-star, I tell you.

So what’s the secret behind no-boil macaroni and cheese?  It’s actually a thinner than usual bechamel sauce.  You still make a roux out of butter and flour and add milk to that, but water is also added.  It cooks just as long as it normally would, between 10 and 15 minutes, but the sauce stays very thin.  The macaroni absorbs a large part of this wonderful sauce, which in turn makes it nice and soft.

Making Bechamel Sauce

The dried elbow macaroni is mixed with the grated cheese, and poured into the prepared 8x8x2 baking dish.

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I used whole wheat elbow mac because I like to try to get more fiber and nutrients into dishes wherever I can.  I used 1/4 cup more liquid than normal for the whole wheat pasta as it tends be more al dente.  I was hoping the extra liquid would keep it softer, and it did! Just pour the bechamel sauce over the the macaroni and cheese.  Don’t stir!  Just cover it with foil and pop it in your 400 degree oven.

bechamel covered dried elbow mac and cheese

After 20 minutes, remove the macaroni and cheese from the oven.  I removed the foil, and I was worried when I saw that it looked saucy.  I spread the sauce over the top of any over-exposed macaroni.

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I carried on despite my worry, and sprinkled another 1/4 cup of grated cheese over the top, followed by the panko breadcrumbs.

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I popped it back in the oven without the foil, and said a prayer.  What a difference 10 minutes made.  It was golden, bubbly, and looked heavenly.  I only hoped it would taste as good as it looked.

No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese

Guess what?  It tasted better than the boiled macaroni version.  I was oooh-ing and aaah-ing as I ate it.  No-boil macaroni and cheese perfection.  You don’t get mac and cheese this good out of a box!

No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese is creamy and cheesy with a crunchy, buttery panko breadcrumb topping. This is homemade mac and cheese made much easier, and nobody will know that you didn't boil the pasta!
Serves: About 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ cups fat-free milk (whole or low-fat is ok too)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch more for breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus a pinch more for breadcrumbs
  • ½ pound dry whole wheat elbow macaroni (2 cups)
  • 1¼ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided (I used Tillamook mac and cheese blend)
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8x8x2 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer, whisking often, about 10 minutes. The sauce will be thin. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and whisk. Set aside.
  3. Combine dried pasta with 1 cup of the grated cheese and pour into the prepared baking dish. Pour the sauce evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Do not stir. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. While the macaroni and cheese bakes, place the panko breadcrumbs, pinch of salt, and pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish. Add to the breadcrumbs and stir to combine.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove the macaroni and cheese from the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cheese over the top, followed by the breadcrumbs. Place in the oven uncovered for 10 more minutes, until golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Adapted from Bon Appetit's January 2013 No-Boil Mac and Cheese recipe
Notes
If you'd rather not use whole wheat pasta, reduce the water by ¼ cup.

Double the recipe and place in a 13x9" baking dish if you want more leftovers!