I’ve been limiting my trips out to once a week, and they have mostly been late afternoon on Sundays. For the stores that have a 1-in-1-out policy, I have not had to wait more than a few minutes, so it has worked well for me so far. (However, if I had needed TP on any of these trips, I would have been outta luck. Fortunately, even working from home, a household of one doesn’t deplete the supply very fast.)
Since the last time I’d ventured out was last Sunday afternoon, when my parents decided to host a “socially distant” Easter dinner (sitting outside, entry through the gate not the house), I had to figure out what kind of mac & cheese I could provide that could be made with what I had on hand.
I’ve wanted to find a slow cooker version – years ago, a friend had one at a Super Bowl party and it was fantastic – but I’ve long since forgotten where she said the recipe came from. (I haven’t given in to the Instant Pot craze because I have half a dozen slow cookers that I already use frequently, a rice cooker that I never use (it’s just not that hard to make rice in a pan on the stove), and I don’t eat hard-boiled eggs. (I cannot tell you how many glowing reviews I’ve seen about Instant Pots because apparently, hard-boiled eggs were just too difficult to peel until this thing came along.) I just don’t have room for another appliance and I rarely need the “instant” part of the Instant Pot since it’s just me.)
I love slow cookers for the “set it and forget it” aspect. Dump in some boneless chicken and a jar of alfredo sauce and in a few hours later, dinner’s done. Or a pork shoulder, some root beer, and a cup of BBQ sauce – boom, one-step pulled pork.
It was tougher than I thought though – a lot of the slow cooker mac & cheese recipes didn’t have great reviews from people who actually made them. Mushy pasta, undercooked pasta, curdled milk, and so on. There are two schools of thought – pre-boil the pasta so it’s partially cooked or just dump everything in uncooked. The recipe I found that called for exactly what I had available (many use cream cheese, which I used up last week, while this one called for cheddar cheese soup and sour cream, both of which I had) went the pre-boil route so that’s what I did, along with making the cheese sauce in a pan first. Honestly, it was a lot more prep work than I’d hoped. It was essentially making stove top mac & cheese, and then putting it in the slow cooker to thicken a little and keep it warm. It tasted really good and was a big hit, especially with one of my soon-to-be nephews, but it definitely didn’t save me any time.
Slow Cooker Mac
Adapted from Lil’ Luna Crock Pot Mac and Cheese
INGREDIENTS (see notes)
- 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 2 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup (10.75 ounce size)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add macaroni. Cook approximately six minutes. You’ll want it relatively firm, since it will continue cooking somewhat in the slow cooker. Drain and rinse with cold water. Give it a quick stir in the colander to prevent sticking.
- In a heavy pan, melt butter over medium heat and add shredded cheese, stirring together until the cheese is melted. Add the sour cream, cheddar cheese soup, salt, and milk, and stir to combine.
- Add the cooked macaroni and the cheese sauce to your slow cooker and stir until the pasta is well coated. It will seem like a lot of sauce – I almost boiled up another cup of macaroni – but it will thicken and reduce.
- Cook on low for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.
Like I said, taste-wise, I had no complaints. It was really creamy but the noodles weren’t mushy. I got several compliments, and there was a very small amount left over. I would absolutely make this again, just when I’ve planned for more prep time. Meanwhile, I will also keep looking for a recipe where everything just gets dumped in the slow cooker in its original form and cooks in the slow cooker.
- I think this is the first time I didn’t alter any of the ingredients (other than not using pepper – we know how I feel about that).
- However – the amounts listed are for a single batch and I did double it because I was feeding 13 people. (I mean, I wasn’t the ONLY one feeding them, they also got ham and potato salad, and rolls, and cupcakes and pie. It was a good dinner!) Judging by how little was left over, I’m glad I doubled it.
Posted April 12, 2020