I consider mac ‘n cheese to be “kick off my shoes, ratty-clothes-I-can’t-wear-out, just-wanna-stay-at-home” food. Sure I might try lobster mac ‘n cheese at a trendy bistro, but most often, I want a simple, homemade version that uses better cheese than American, but still reminds me of the Kraft packaged version from my childhood.
There are lots of great macaroni and cheese recipes out there. When my kids were growing up, I usually made a variation on the 1963 classic McCall’s Cook Book version. But I’ve gotten lazy and wanted to see if I could come up with a single serving mac ‘n cheese that does not require cooking the macaroni first. You think that’s impossible? Think again.
There are only 2 tricks: first, using macaroni or pasta that is relatively thin, such as elbow or mini farfalle (bow tie) shapes; and second, steeping the dry macaroni in the milk-based mixture for 10 minutes before baking. The result is more like a kugel or noodle pudding than a creamy casserole (and I did get the inspiration from a kugel recipe), but it’s pretty good for a dish that takes only a few minutes of active preparation time.
The ingredient list below is for 2 servings, but you can easily cut the amounts in half for 1 serving or multiply them for more – the math isn’t difficult. The baking time is for single serving ramekins; as long as you use them, adding another few to the oven wouldn’t change the timing drastically. I noted the egg proportions for a single serving but the dish is good cold or re-heated; if you’re eating alone, consider making 2 and keeping the second for leftovers.
Single Serving Macaroni and Cheese
(No Boiling of Pasta Required)
Servings – 2 Cost – less than $3 ($1.50 per serving)
- ½ cup (2 ounces) elbow macaroni
- ⅔ cup (2 ounces) grated sharp cheddar or other hard cheese + 2 tablespoons for topping
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten (2 tablespoons of beaten egg for 1 single serving)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter + a bit extra (unmelted) for topping
- few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of bread crumbs – plain store-bought, panko, or homemade
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 – 8 ounce ramekins
- 2 small bowls (to mix egg and melt butter, reuse second for breadcrumbs)
- Fork or small whisk
- Measuring cups or food scale
- Measuring spoons
- Grater, cutting board, knife and bowl if your cheese isn’t already grated
- Small pot if you don’t use microwave to warm milk
- Knife to cut butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the macaroni in the ramekins. Doesn’t look like enough, but trust me, you’ll have a full ramekin when we’re done.
- Cover the macaroni with the 2 ounces of grated cheese.
- Warm the milk, but do not let it simmer or boil. I microwaved the milk in a pyrex microwave-safe measuring cup for less than 1 minute on high.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. I microwaved it for 30 seconds on high, opening the microwave and stirring it once to prevent “spitting.”
- Pour a small amount of the milk into the bowl with the beaten egg and stir for a moment. This “tempers” the egg, preventing it from “seizing” up, which would happen if you dumped it into cold milk. Then pour the egg into the rest of the milk and add the Worcestershire sauce, melted butter, salt and pepper. Add half of that mixture to each ramekin.
- Let the ramekins sit on the counter for 10 minutes while you do something important or just fritter away the time looking at twitter, your Facebook/Google+ page or some silly animal or kid video that someone you barely talk to has posted for the world’s enjoyment. This single serving mac ‘n cheese is not magic, but close – the uncooked macaroni expands as it sits in the liquid!
- Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of grated cheese with the bread crumbs. For 1 serving, I used a 1 tablespoon of panko and another of homemade bread crumbs. For the second, I used all panko, broiled at 400 degrees in my toaster oven for 2-3 minutes. I would have used my Reichl-style breadcrumbs if I’d had any in the freezer. If you’re browning bread crumbs in a toaster, toaster oven or regular oven, watch them carefully. I had to throw out 1 batch because I got caught up reading instead of paying attention to my task at hand.
- Sprinkle them on top of the ramekins and dot with butter.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until sauce is bubbling. If you like to live dangerously, put ramekins in oven without a cookie sheet on lower oven; of course, if you follow that course, a bit of sauce may bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven.
- Once the mac ‘n cheese is done, let it sit for 1-2 minutes before digging in– so you don’t burn your tongue or the roof of your mouth.
Lest you think I’m lecturing you from on high, those last 2 pieces of advice are ripped directly from the headlines of my experience making this dish .