When I started this blog, one of my goals was to learn how to cook some “real food,” not just desserts. It took me more than two months, but I finally did it! No, I still haven’t faced my fear of cooking raw meat, but I made something that involved working with two pots at the same time and producing something called a “roux.” Baby steps, right? On Saturday night, I stayed on campus pretty late to work on homework, and before I knew it, it was 11 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten anything. For whatever reason, I really wanted mac & cheese from Noodles, and for whatever crazier reason, I decided that because Noodles was closed, I was going to make it myself. So. That was that.
To find a recipe, I literally Googled “Copycat Noodles Mac & Cheese.” One of the best tips I can offer anyone who wants to learn how to bake or cook (or, really, to do anything) using the Internet is to just Google what you want to know. 99.9 percent of the time, you will be able to find what you’re looking for, or at least a good starting point to work from.
I rejected the first few recipes I looked at — requires squash! wants fancy cheese! looks like I will definitely mess up! — before settling on one from Mom to Bed by 8.** It looked simple enough, and it only called for one ingredient I didn’t have — paprika, which I probably wouldn’t have used anyway. I’m not much of a spice person — another new frontier to tackle, someday.
Here’s your visual shopping list:
I deviated from the original recipe, ingredient-wise, just to work with what I had in my apartment. The recipe called for 2 cups of Monterey Jack and 1 cup of cheddar; I used all Colby Jack, my staple cheese. I used 2% milk instead of whole, which could have contributed to my later issues getting the sauce to thicken. I was a little worried that the veggie pasta would taste weird with cheese on it, but it turned out fine.
Evidence of how much of a cooking rookie I am: I struggled to even prepare the noodles. I had to read the recipe and the box and do all kinds of math to figure out how much water I needed. Note to self: Brush up on your lb to oz, oz to cup, oz to quart conversions. Embarrassing. Preparing the sauce was a bit of a near-disaster, too. I used a pot that was way too big for melting 1 tablespoon of butter (I halved the recipe), poured the milk in way too soon, probably added too much flour, definitely added the cheese too early, and had all kinds of other problems. Mom to Bed by 8’s recipe is pretty good about telling you when to add what, but my method tended to be “add the next thing when you start panicking about the last thing,” so that didn’t go so well.
For a long time, I thought I had messed it up. I kept stirring and stirring and my sauce was not thickening. I stirred and added more flour and stirred and started mentally preparing myself for a Ramen dinner.
But, eventually, it worked! The cheese all melted in, and the sauce started to thicken and even separate to leave behind a little bit of liquid, like scrambled eggs eventually do when they’re done. I poured it over my noodles and stirred it through, and let me tell you: even poorly executed, it was lovely. So, for all you cooking failures like me, this recipe is a great one. Simple, quick and tasty. I can’t wait to practice and see how it tastes when I actually know what I’m doing. 🙂 For the recipe, check out Mom to Bed by 8. She’ll tell you how to make this better than I did! Enjoy! And if you have any other quick dinner recipes like this, I would love to have them. Please comment if you have one to share. Thanks!
**Another side “tip,” Internet kitchen students — I almost always turn to bloggers for recipes, not “professional” sites. I just feel safer using a recipe someone developed and tested in her/his own home kitchen. It’s like there’s more love in it, you know?