To everything there is a season.
There is a time and a place for Wooden Nickel’s macaroni and cheese. It’s the classic, and it’s perfect, and if you for some weird reason, deem it necessary to only have one macaroni and cheese recipe in your arsenal, let it be this one.
But then there is baking sheet macaroni and cheese, because sometimes you need mac and cheese quickly, and you need to feed an army.
And then there’s slow cooker macaroni and cheese because sometimes you don’t have time to deal with dinner.
In keeping with CV(D)’s request to showcase these glorious recipes I dump in the slow cooker, and promptly ignore, I did make The Kitchn’s macaroni and cheese. AGOMYR had made it, and liked it but didn’t love it. Which gave me pause. But ultimately, no great mac and cheese recipe should go untested, so I had to give it a try.
First things first, it is completely un-photogenic. So please accept this shot of my kitchen counter with a bowl on it, instead of the awful one of the slow cooker I took closer up.
Second, it’s really not bad at all. AGOMYR noticed a bit of a graininess to it, and I almost wonder (and here I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say), did it have too much cheese? It had 3 1/2 C, and I couldn’t move off the couch for about 2 hours after eating it. It’s like eating a brick of cheddar. Which isn’t bad. And is something I’ve probably come scarily close to doing before. But it just seemed a bit much. Next time (yes, there will still be a next time), I’m ditching the half cup they want you to throw on top at the end.
The beauty of this particular recipe, of course, is that you dump everything in the slow cooker and walk away. The Kitchn suggests you return with 10-30 minutes left of cooking to sprinkle a layer of cheese on top, but we already know I’m skipping that next time. And with a call for that much cheese, you can use up whatever is left in the fridge. For me that was some Parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar. Anything that melts easily (the aforementioned cheeses, or fontina, or gruyere if you’re fancy) will be just fine here.
To make slow cooker macaroni for 6, you will need:
3 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups 2% or whole milk
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, or 1 teaspoon dijon or yellow mustard (I didn’t have that and used cayenne instead because it’s what I use to complement the cheddar in these)
- Combine ingredients in the slow cooker: Set 1/2 cup of grated cheese aside, then combine the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir to make sure that everything is evenly distributed and the pasta is evenly coated. Smooth the top so the pasta is submerged.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 4 hours*: The pasta is done when it has absorbed all of the liquid and the pasta is soft. It will look soupy up until the last half-hour of cooking, and then it will quickly finish cooking and absorb all the liquid. If this is your first time making this recipe, start checking the pasta after about 2 hours, then continue checking it every 20 to 30 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Every slow cooker will be slightly different; once you’ve made this recipe once, make a note of the cooking time for future reference.
- Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the pasta in the last 10 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook until the cheese has melted or the rest of the liquid is absorbed into the pasta.
- Serve: Serve this macaroni and cheese straight from the slow cooker. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
*I have an All Clad slow cooker, and my macaroni was perfectly done after just 2 hours.