Mac and cheese is a staple in many homes. It’s the most popular cheese recipe in the United States — and for good reason. It’s quick, delicious and easy to make — a favorite of kids, college students and anyone looking for convenient comfort food. Without a bit of imagination, however, your family’s favorite meal could get a little repetitive. Knowing what to add to mac and cheese to keep it interesting is an excellent way to keep your loved ones — or yourself — returning for more.
Luckily, there are plenty of easy things to add to mac and cheese that can transform the dish altogether. We’ll teach you a basic mac and cheese recipe and then tell you how to spice it up. Add your own twist on the beloved favorite, and fit it into your busy daily life without the hassle.
There are many ways to make mac and cheese. You may have a family recipe passed down through generations, or you may enjoy boxed mac and cheese. If you want to up your mac and cheese game, we recommend skipping the box and making your own in under 30 minutes. To serve four, you will need 8 ounces of dried macaroni, 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 ½ cups of fat-free milk, and 112 ounces of reduced-fat American cheese, sliced and torn into pieces.
Cook your macaroni according to the package directions, drain and set it to one side. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan, then stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk and stir until the mixture is bubbly and slightly thickened. Add the torn cheese slices and stir until they’re completely melted. Stir in the macaroni noodles and coat them with the sauce. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes and let stand for 10 minutes before you serve.
One of the best things about a simple mac and cheese recipe is how you can add whatever you have around the house to spice it up or sneak in some vegetables for the kids. Although your imagination is your only limit for mac and cheese add-ins, here are some quick ideas to get you started:
If you’ve had a hectic day and aren’t up to using your imagination, we’ve gathered some excellent mac and cheese and pasta recipes to keep your evening meal simple and delicious so you can feel good about what you feed your family. When you want to simplify meal times, consider fully cooked and pre-seasoned meats to save you time. They are easy to store and prepare and safe to handle and cook.
Our top five mac and cheese variations include the following:
To add some literal spice to your evening comfort food, consider this delicious take on the original, with some added protein and vegetables.
Bring water to a boil and cook your macaroni noodles. While preparing the noodles, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. Add chopped red bell pepper. Once the pepper has softened, stir in 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Once smooth, add 2 cups of whole milk. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 3 ½ cups of shredded pepper jack cheese. Add your noodles and 6 ounces of John Soules Foods Chicken Fajitas, thawed. Stir to combine. Top with more cheese and broil the mixture for about 5-7 minutes. Top with cilantro or jalapeno, if you like.
This mac and cheese recipe takes only 15 minutes, making it the perfect addition to a busy day.
Who doesn’t love the sweet tanginess of barbeque chicken? Make this gorgeous recipe shorter and sweeter with John Soules Foods Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Strips to reduce your time in the kitchen. Adding chicken is always a win, and the combination of barbeque flavors and cheese is wonderful.
Bring 3 cups of chopped cauliflower florets and 1 cup of low-fat milk to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat. Cover the pot and let it simmer, stirring occasionally. Puree the mixture in a blender, and return it to the saucepan. Stir in 1 ¼ cups of shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan.
Cook your John Soules Foods Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Strips barbecue chicken to your preference. At the same time, cook your pasta and add it to the cheese mixture. Cook over low heat until the pasta is coated. Cut your chicken strips into pieces, add it over the pasta, and top with extra cheddar.
Buffalo chicken and mac and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly. Swap the lettuce in this Blue Cheese and Buffalo Chicken Salad recipe for mac and cheese, and you’ve got a delicious and filling meal.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and place 12 ounces of frozen John Soules Foods Buffalo Style Chicken evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes, flipping the meat halfway through.
Grab your homemade, boxed or leftover mac and cheese, and place it in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes, 2 stalks of celery cut into ¼-inch strips and 2 medium-sized shredded carrots. Drizzle with blue cheese dressing and mix well. Divide into four bowls, and top each bowl with the chicken. Add some blue cheese for extra flavor if you desire.
This nutritious take on mac and cheese is a great way to get some broccoli in for the kids. Add pre-cooked and seasoned steak strips to the mix, and have it on the dinner table even faster. The kids will love the rich flavor, and adults will love pairing the meal with a glass of red wine.
Cook your pasta, and add 2 cups of broccoli florets to the saucepan during the last minute of cooking. Drain the pasta, saving ¼ cup of cooking water. Add ½ cup of milk to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in 6 slices of American cheese, torn into pieces, and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re only cooking for adults. Once smooth, add the pasta and broccoli. Add the cooking water to loosen the mixture, if needed. Once cooked, stir in ¼ cup of chopped and drained pimientos.
Mac and cheese is a great building block — you can customize it with many ingredients you already have at home. It’s an easy way to get the kids to eat some veggies, and with a little imagination, you can create dinners your friends and family will love. At John Soules Foods, we understand how demanding life can get, which is why we’ve created a wide selection of fully cooked chicken and beef, expertly seasoned and ready to be part of your next meals.