The Best Homemade Mac and Cheese 🧀

This recipe looks long but is really simple and quick. Three steps: cook the pasta, make the sauce and, optional, bake in the oven with the crumb topping. The recipe is only long because I detail each step for novices. It’s a delicious and saucy served as soon as you combine pasta and sauce, but for true level deliciousness add the buttered crumbs and bake it a few minutes. Okay. Here we go … Preheat the oven to 375.

Instapot Mac and Cheese

★★★★★

INSTAPOT/Pressure Cooking, Kid-Friendly, Pasta, Quick & Easy

INGREDIENTS

The Pasta:

2 cups macaroni or other small pasta 

2 1/2 cups cold water

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp butter

The Sauce:

2 1/4 cups milk

2 1/2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp ground dry mustard or 1 tsp Dijon*

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

8 oz cheddar or other cheese**

The Butter Crumb Topping: (option but, oh … do it!)

1/2 cup Panko or crushed saltines

3 Tbsp melted butter

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

* MUSTARD NOTE: You cannot actually taste the mustard in this dish; it just enchances the cheese flavor. Use dry or Dijon.

**CHEESE NOTE: I usually use aged or sharp cheddar but I also like a Swiss or a combination of the two. Almost any combination of cheeses will work so feel free to use your favorites.

DIRECTIONS

FOR THE PASTA: Put the macaroni, water, butter and salt in the Instant Pot and give it a stir. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to Sealing. Push the Pressure Cook (or Manual) button. Adjust the time using the + and – buttons to get to 4 minutes.

While it’s cooking, grate about 3/4 of the cheese in one pile and dice the remaining 1/4 cubes into another pile. Heat the milk in the microwave but do not boil.

When it beeps that it’s done, flip the valve to Venting for a quick release. Pour the pasta into a strainer and cover with a plate to keep it warm.

FOR THE SAUCE: Put the 2 1/2 Tbsp butter in the Instant Pot and hit the Sauté button a couple times to get to the “Normal” heat of the sauté setting. (Pressing Sauté a few times on the DUO models toggles through Saute’s three heat settings: Less, Normal and More).

When the butter is melted, add the flour and dry mustard, if using. Stir constantly with a whisk for a couple minutes to cook this roux. Keep it moving. Then add the hot milk all at once and whisk vigorously. (Add the Dijon mustard here, if you’re using that.). Keep stirring until it comes back to a boil and thickens. It can scorch if you leave it. The sauce should be the consistency of unwhipped heavy cream at this point. The cheese and pasta will thicken it, so if it’s any thicker than heavy cream, whisk in a little milk, a tablespoon at a time to thin it a bit.

Hit Cancel. (You do NOT want the sauce to boil once the cheese is in; it can curdle.) Whisk in the salt, pepper and sugar. Add the grated cheese but keep the cubes for later. Stir until the cheese melts. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if you like. (Incidentally, the sauce at this stage is what I use on steamed broccoli or cauliflower.). Stir in the cubed cheese and the pasta. If you like, you can heat it a little with the Sauté function, but don’t let it boil. You don’t want the cheese cubes to melt into the sauce – they are a great little cheesy burst of flavor.

FOR THE TOPPING: mix the crumbs, melted butter and Parmesan cheese with a fork. Spread this evenly over the pasta and cheese sauce and bake at 375 for 10-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.