Three Delicious Ways To Transform Your Favorite Boxed Mac and Cheese
At the end of a busy day, few things can feel more daunting than having to decide what to eat. What meal could you throw together in a few minutes? Frozen meals are fine to heat up, but certainly not all the time. And while ordering carryout is convenient, the cost may say otherwise.
When struggling to put a meal together, don’t look past that lonely box of mac and cheese in your pantry. Although simple, mac and cheese is the perfect vessel for adding more exciting flavors and upping your meal. Mac and cheese can seem unexciting and plain on its own, but there are limitless transformations possible. Let’s talk about a few easy favorites you can try next time you’re in a pinch.
Proven time and again, the combination of broccoli and cheddar cheese is unmatched. To upgrade your favorite box of mac and cheese while adding some much-needed vegetables, simply add some broccoli florets. You can get creative here, too, by simply steaming florets and seasoning them with salt and pepper, or roasting them in the oven with additional spices. If you choose to roast your broccoli, just 20 minutes at 400 degrees will do— lightly coat the broccoli in olive oil, add a dash of spices such as garlic powder, black pepper, and possibly a hint of chili powder or cayenne pepper for a kick of heat, and spread flat on a baking sheet so they roast evenly.
The best part about adding broccoli to your mac and cheese is that it can roast as the water boils and the pasta cooks. Regardless of the extra steps, this dish is still a quick meal. If you’re really in a pinch, feel free to use frozen broccoli florets as well— they will still roast in the oven without needing to be thawed beforehand, and they can be quickly steamed and ready to eat after just 5 minutes in the microwave.
When adding broccoli to your mac and cheese, make sure the florets are small enough to mix well with the pasta. To get a good coating of cheesy goodness on the broccoli, you can add additional shredded cheese to the mac and give it a good stir so you get extra cheese flavor and a good balance of pasta, broccoli, and cheese.
Baked Mac and Cheese
Traditional baked mac and cheese is perhaps the pinnacle of homemade mac and cheese. While boxed mac and cheese has a distinct flavor and texture that doesn’t necessarily scream homemade, you can transform it with a few additions.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees before making your mac and cheese. After preparing it to the box’s directions, you can make the mac extra creamy and cheesy by adding some shredded cheddar and a dollop of cream cheese or sour cream for additional creaminess. This ultimately depends on how creamy and cheesy you like your homemade mac, so keep mixing and adding until you reach your desired consistency. If you like the boxed mac and cheese just the way it is, you can simply leave it as-is and add the topping to bake.
Once the mac and cheese is to your liking, pour it into a greased baking dish. If you want easy individual servings, you can even use ramekins for perfect single-serving portions. Depending on how you like your baked mac and cheese, you can opt for a golden, cheesy topping or a traditional breadcrumb topping. Once the mac and cheese is in the dish, top it off with shredded cheese or a mixture of melted butter, breadcrumbs, and seasonings of your choice such as black pepper, parsley, or an Italian seasoning blend. Slide your meal into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until perfectly golden brown. Although this transformation is more time-consuming, the upgrade is worth it.
Spiced Mac and Cheese
Odds are you have a plethora of spices sitting in your kitchen cabinets, so why not make use of them to upgrade your mac n cheese in an easy way? The best part about adding spices to your boxed mac and cheese is that you can pick and choose which spices to use and how much. And with a simple spoonful of a taste test, you can easily alter the flavors. When serving mac and cheese for a few people, you can even personalize the meal for each person, allowing everyone to add the flavors they want.
A fan favorite is simple black pepper and Italian seasonings like parsley, basil, and a hint of garlic and onion powder. If you want a more sophisticated and bold flavor, use freshly cracked black pepper and fresh herbs.
If you like to experiment with flavors, give curry-inspired mac and cheese a try. With a balance of paprika, curry powder, chili powder, and a hint of turmeric, garam masala, black pepper, garlic, and onion, get ready for a flavorful mac and cheese that may become your new favorite. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can add the slightest hint of ginger for a more complex flavor.
No matter what types of spices you typically enjoy, you can create your very own spiced mac and cheese that is inspired by your favorite cuisine or flavor. Enjoy spicy foods? Don’t be shy when it comes to adding cayenne pepper, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Prefer something simple yet more elevated than plain mac and cheese? The addition of black pepper and garlic may be just enough to excite your taste buds. But when it really comes down to it, a typical box of mac and cheese is the perfect way to experiment with flavors and make your meal more exciting and just the way you like it.
There are practically infinite possibilities for your box of mac and cheese, and hopefully, these ideas provide the inspiration you need to give your dinner a much-needed upgrade. No matter what you’re craving, mac and cheese is the perfect meal that can take on add veggies, spices, and various proteins without much effort.