Okay, so I said I wouldn’t be doing slow cooker mac and cheese again for a while after my first unsuccessful attempt at it a few weeks ago. I changed my mind! I figured I could test a different recipe out on C and J when it was my turn to cook during our girls’ weekend in Lake Placid.
Several recipes I consulted listed canned condensed cheddar cheese soup in their ingredients and I hesitated. Cooking with canned soup makes me weep inside.Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I turn up my nose at the very idea of cooking with canned condensed soup, so much so that I have to carry tissues around with me in case of nosebleeds. I know, I know, I’m a terrible snob; I know it and I own it.
I decided to take a chance on the canned soup method. I heated it up with evaporated milk, water, and cubed extra-sharp Cheddar and Jack cheeses as well as dried mustard, cayenne, and salt and pepper until it was all well-mixed. Then dumped dried elbow macaroni into the prepared crock pot before pouring the soupy sauce over.
My slow cooker runs really hot even on low, so I took a longish piece of heavy-duty foil and folded it into thirds to create a sort of collar to go around the inside of the crock. This helped to insulate and even out the heat to keep the mac and cheese from cooking too much too quickly. I placed a folded-over sheet of foil on the bottom too, then put a slow cooker liner over the whole thing before adding the food.
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni
2 12-oz cans evaporated milk
2 11-oz cans condensed cheddar cheese soup
2 ½ cups water
Salt and pepper
2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups (8 oz) cubed sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 oz) cubed Monterey Jack
Pan-toasted panko or breadcrumbs, optional
- Line slow cooker insert with aluminum foil collar. Place slow cooker liner over the crock and then fill with pasta. Bring evaporated milk, condensed soup, water, 1 tsp salt, mustard and cayenne to simmer in large saucepan. Slowly stir in cheddar and Monterey Jack until completely melted. Sauce will be soupy.
- Pour mixture over pasta in prepared slow cooker. Stir. Cover and cook on high until macaroni is tender, about 2 hours.
- Remove foil collar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If sauce is too thick, stir in enough hot water to loosen consistency to taste. Sprinkle with toasted panko or bread crumbs if desired.
I like my mac and cheese to have a little kick, so I doubled the cayenne and added a full tablespoon of mustard powder. Resist the temptation to use hot sauce and prepared mustard; the vinegar in those condiments could curdle the cheese, though I think you can stir those ingredients in in the last ten or so minutes without a problem. I just wouldn’t do it from the outset.
Final verdict: HOLY SCHNIKEY, this was good! It could have used a touch more salt and cayenne, I think, but overall, I was very pleased with it. C was shocked by the consistency of this slow cooker mac and cheese. That made two of us; I was fully expecting this to be mushy and pasty but it wasn’t. It wasn’t al dente either, but I don’t think I’ve ever made or eaten al dente mac and cheese anyway. The sauce was cheesy and creamy without being gloppy. What a far cry from my last attempt at crock pot mac and cheese.
It’s going to be my go-to slow cooker mac and cheese recipe! I still don’t want to use canned condensed soup for all my slow cooker cooking, but I’m also not ruling it out altogether anymore. See? Even snobs can start to change their minds!
I also can’t believe I’ve been using my crock pot without liners all this time. It made all the difference when it came to cleanup. All I had to do after lifting the bag out was give a quick wipe of the crock with a damp paper towel (after the crock had cooled completely) and I was done! It was so worth the money!