Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
This weekend I decided to make slow cooker mac and cheese so I could make the dish earlier in the day and then forget about it, and so it would be ready for our meal later in the day.
Find out how I got on making macaroni cheese in my slow cooker for the first time!
Odd as it might seem but other than lasagne I have never cooked pasta in the slow cooker before, after lots of horror stories about it turning very starchy or going mushy.
I wanted to make mac and cheese as a side dish to go with our roast dinner but wanted to prepare it earlier in the day to save time later. Slow cooker to the rescue!
Now since I tend to avoid using convenience ingredients and make my recipes from scratch, I needed to try something different. A quick look on the Internet showed many recipes for slow cooker mac and cheese which use either evaporated milk or cream cheese instead of a real cheese sauce.
I didn’t want to go down this route as I wanted to keep as much flavour in there as possible! So I decided I would make a really thick white sauce as the basis for my macaroni cheese sauce, and then add cheese and cook this in the slow cooker.
The thickness of the cheese sauce I think is the key to ensure the sauce doesn’t split or curdle as it cooks away gently in the slow cooker.
So after adding the grated cheese on top of the macaroni, I made a thick white sauce in a pan on the hob. To ensure the pasta cooks I also added water into the pot when adding the white sauce to the pasta.
Once the white sauce had thickened after about ten minutes simmering gently in a saucepan, I whisked it thoroughly, seasoned it and then added it to the slow cooker pot with the other ingredients. Afterwards, I mixed well with the cheese, water and pasta so it was well combined.
The next step was to add flavour with a little minced garlic, parsley and mixed herbs, and a little paprika. All of these, along with seasoning, give a little lift to the flavour of the cheese sauce.
I also like the speckles of green that the parsley adds!
Once all mixed it was time to leave it too cook. By making the sauce extra thick (by using more of the flour and butter than you would for a thinner sauce) and then adding water in with the pasta, I hoped that the pasta would cook and absorb the water, leaving the sauce really thick and delicious.
It was the same idea as for the pasta bake sauces in a jar which you add water too and then pour over pasta, but in a recipe from scratch.
I was so pleased to discover after only 1 hour and 45 minutes, the pasta was deliciously soft, the cheese sauce had not split or curdled or gone watery, and my thick sauce was still thick!
It was great as a side to our roast dinner. To make this a meal in one you could also add peas, sweetcorn, diced ham, bacon lardons, or even chunks of cooked chorizo.
My daughter loved this mac and cheese and had no idea it had been made in a different way to usual. Bonus!
Slow cooker mac and cheese will certainly be going on my meal plan more often now, since it is so easy and convenient to make. Full of cheesy carby goodness!
So next time you want to make slow cooker mac and cheese, and need a UK recipe with UK measurements and not using unusual ingredients, make sure you try my recipe.
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Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
For the white sauce:
- 40 g butter
- 40 g plain flour
- 500 ml semi-skimmed milk
For the mac and cheese:
- 250 g macaroni dried pasta
- 180 g grated cheddar cheese I used a mixture of mature and medium cheddar
- 250 ml water
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 0.5 tsp mixed herbs
- 0.5 tsp minced garlic
- 0.5 tsp paprika
To make the sauce:
- Melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. This is the roux which is the basis of the sauce.
- Add about a fifth of the milk to the pan, whisk well and it will become incorporated with the roux.
- Add another lot of milk, and again whisk it in well.
- Continue, adding the milk in about 4 more lots, and whisking after each addition.
- Set the pan to cook gently for around ten minutes, it should be at a simmer. Stir occasionally. About two minutes from the end the sauce will thicken, make sure you stir it well and whisk during this time.
- Once thickened your sauce is ready to use. Note it will get very thick, and you want it to get very thick before adding it into the slow cooker.
To make the mac and cheese:
- Add the dry macaroni pasta and then the cheese in the slow cooker pot.
- Pour on the cheese sauce, and add the cold water.
- Add the herbs and spices, and season well with salt and pepper. Taste the sauce and make sure it is seasoned to your taste.
- Stir well, put on the lid and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours. Stir occasionally so it doesn't get stuck to the base of the slow cooker pot. Serve once ready.Note that timings vary depending on your own slow cooker, so check the dish occasionally and if the pasta is still hard, cook for longer, or if it is soft and ready to eat earlier, take it out earlier.