When you think about your ultimate comfort food, I’m guessing that it includes cheese. For me, it’s probably grilled cheese, or alternatively, mac and cheese.
We all probably grew up with it; those horrible orange-coloured, cello-wrapped slices of fake cheese melty between two slices of bread, and, of course, the blue box, with that nuclear-orange-coloured packet of powdered cheese.
But you’re not a kid now! You’re a grown-ass adult, and you deserve a grown-ass adult mac and cheese.
What I love so very much about this recipe (which I have now been making for ages, but never actually bothered to post) is that it makes your favourite comfort food in about the same amount of time it takes you to make a boxed mac and cheese, except that it’s homemade.
That’s right, kids. Homemade mac and cheese in the time it would take you to make boxed.
We owe this amazing feat to that culinary MVP, the Instant Pot.
Yes, yes, I’m obsessed. Noted. Moving on.
So, in addition to this mac and cheese being quick, it can also very happily become a party.
On a regular night, if you just need to feed the kids (or yourself after the bar, no judgement), I would pair this with a nice salad.
But if you want to party with the mac and cheese, it’s down. Make a double batch (at least) and then break out a bunch of accoutrement. Dish up big, gooey bowls of mac and cheese, and then allow people to top it as they see fit. Kinda like sundaes, but with pasta. How can that be bad?
Here are some topping ideas:
- Toasted breadcrumbs (panko is king if you can get it)
- Cherry tomato slices
- Chopped fresh herbs (basil would be especially good here)
- Arugula dressed with a little olive oil and salt
- Caramelized onions
- Fancy flavoured salts
- Balsamic reduction
- Truffle oil (for the most fanciest, grown-up-est mac and cheese)
- Bacon bits, pulled pork or pork belly for the omnis
Add a salad and some crusty bread, and you have a mac and cheese party!
A quick word about cheese: obviously cheddar is traditional. I like to use a mix; gruyere is great, because it has that beautiful stringy consistency when it melts. I also like to throw a little hard cheese into the mix; a pecorino or a parmesan. They have a nice nutty flavour, and add salt as well. I will basically use whatever I have on hand, but if I’m making it to serve to a crowd, I’ll seek out some fancier cheeses. Fancier cheeses = more grownup mac and cheese.
Finally, it’s easy to adapt this recipe to be gluten free. Because it’s not made in a traditional way with a roux, just swap out your regular pasta for gluten-free, and you’ll be golden.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 225 g dried elbow macaroni
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Place 2 cups of water in the Instant Pot, along with the salt and the macaroni. Give it a good stir. Place lid on, seal, and set to manual pressure cooking for 4 minutes.
- After the 4 minutes are up, open the seal and allow the pressure to release.
- Stir in the butter, milk, and smoked paprika. Stir until the butter is melted.
- Add the cheese and continue to stir until it melts. If the sauce is too thin, turn on the sauté feature on the pot and allow it to cook down until you get the desired consistency.
- Serve immediately.