Boxed macaroni and cheese is something I ate a lot just after college. I was one of those students who lived with my parents almost until I graduated college when I was 21 years old. Shortly after, I moved from my hometown of Springfield, MO to Los Angeles, CA. The cost of living there is, well, quite different. So I was on a pretty tight budget, meaning I spent as little as I could on groceries. And so my boxed macaroni phase began.
I think a lot of people grow up eating boxed mac and cheese as kids, but for me it was an early-adult life thing. Go figure. 🙂
Sometimes I still crave the ease and comfort of a boxed macaroni dinner. And I think that's why I kind of stumbled upon this homemade version. Here's what I like about it:
1. Just as easy to throw together as real boxed macaroni and cheese.
2. Unlike the box, I know exactly what is in this and can pronounce all the ingredients.
3. Since it's not actually out of a box, I can easily change up the quantity to feed just myself if I want (usually store bought mac and cheese will make 2 to 2.5 servings, and it's hard to just throw that other serving away or save for later, so portion control becomes difficult).
4. Sometimes I avoid dairy during the week and this version can easily become completely vegan if I choose.
5. I can change out the noodles for anything I like, which can add even more nutrition.
You in? Have I convinced you?
6 oz. pasta*
3 tablespoons vegan butter or oil (or just butter if you don't care about keeping it dairy free)
3 tablespoons almond milk, or whatever milk you like
1/4 cup cheese mix (recipe below)
*I used Garden Delight noodles this time. which are noodles made with vegetables. You could also use 100% whole wheat, a gluten free noodle, or if you find something cool like those black bean noodles I shared last month, go with that. All work, just cook according to the package directions as they may have slightly different boil times.
Once the noodles have boiled, drain. I usually leave mine in the strainer in the sink while I do the next step. In the same (medium sized) pot you boiled the noodles in, add the butter and milk with the heat turned down to low. Stir until the butter has almost all melted. Add the cheese mix and stir. Then add the drained noodles back into the pot and stir so that all the noodles get coated in the cheese. Taste and add a little salt and pepper to your liking.
3/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
In a food processor or good blender, pulse ingredients into a fine powder. This will make enough cheese mix to make four, 2 serving pots of homemade boxed macaroni and cheese. If you're unsure you're gonna like this or worry you won't use this often enough to justify making that much, you can try cutting the cheese mix recipe in half. But this is usually how much I make because the whole point is to have most of the meal ready to go, like using a boxed mix. 🙂
You can store this mix in an air tight container; no need to refrigerate.
Top with fresh herbs if you have some and serve along side veggies or a salad. This time I made a favorite at our house—roasted Brussels sprouts with fresh lemon juice. Yum! Happy easy-dinner night to you! xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.