My 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Extra Creamy Boxed Mac and Cheese

It’s in your fridge right now.

<p>Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm</p>

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Despite the fact that I’m a professional recipe developer and cookbook author who can, in theory, make from-scratch meals every night, we eat a lot of boxed mac and cheese in my house. Once or twice a week, you can bet I’m tearing open a dehydrated cheese packet and mixing it in with some cute little noodles, heating up a frozen veggie or cutting up some crudites to serve on the side, and calling it a day as far as my kids’ dinner is concerned. They’re happy, I’m happy, it’s a win-win.

The recipe developer side of my brain gets the better of me, though, even when whipping up a box of Annie’s. Whether it’s substituting different liquids for the milk, mixing in vegetables (generally a big no-no with my 4-year-old, unfortunately), or figuring out what technique makes the sauce the least lumpy, I like to play around and find better ways to make the convenience food taste better.

My favorite upgrade is one I thought of one day when I had run out of butter and was still looking to impart some richness to the sauce. Inspired by the egg-based dish carbonara, I whisked an egg yolk in with the milk and powdered cheese. It definitely helped make the dish creamier without butter, but when I make the sauce with egg yolk and butter, that’s when the real magic happens.

What results is a glossy, silky cheese sauce that coats the back of a spoon, AKA boxed mac and cheese perfection.

<p>Simply Recipes / Coco Morante</p>

Simply Recipes / Coco Morante

How to Upgrade Your Boxed Mac and Cheese

When the noodles are al dente, I scoop out 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set it aside before draining the pasta. Then, to the empty and still very warm saucepan (off the heat), I add two tablespoons of butter, three tablespoons of milk or half and half, and the reserved pasta water.

Once the butter has melted, I whisk in the egg yolk, working quickly to ensure that it doesn’t scramble. Next, I add the cheese packet and whisk until there are no lumps and the sauce is silky and smooth. Finally, I add the piping hot pasta back to the pot, give it a stir, let it sit for a minute or two so the sauce can thicken a bit, and stir once more.

And that’s it! Served with grated Parmesan and a pepper grinder at the table (because little kids love sprinkling anything on anything), it’s the easiest dinner I make.


If your egg yolk does curdle a little bit, you can still save your sauce. Just transfer the sauce to a wide-mouth mason jar, blend it up with a stick blender to smooth out any lumps, then add the sauce back to the pot. 

The first time I served this version of mac and cheese to my kids, I was worried that they would detect a difference in the flavor and turn up their noses. Not so! Any egg flavor is more than overpowered by the cheese, and all that comes through is the improved texture. I hope you try this out and enjoy it as much as we do in my house.

A Note about Food Safety

The USDA advises against serving undercooked eggs to children. If you are concerned, substitute pasteurized eggs when following this tip.

<p>Simply Recipes / Coco Morante</p>

Simply Recipes / Coco Morante

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.