Slow cooker, meet mac and cheese! If you're looking for a hands-off recipe for delicious mac and cheese, you've found it. We have a few tricks to avoid mushy pasta and watery sauce, too!
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta (or fusilli)
- 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 3 cups (12 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups (8 ounces) Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
DAD ADD: Crispy Bacon Topper
- 4 strips bacon, chopped
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Combine everything in the slow cooker: Add all the macaroni and cheese ingredients to the slow cooker. Reserve one cup of cheddar cheese to top at the end. Stir ingredients together very well.
2 Cover and cook on low heat for 90 minutes.
3 Make the Crispy Bacon Topper while the mac and cheese cooks: In a small skillet over low heat, add chopped bacon. Cook until fat is rendered and the bacon is very crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally to evenly cook the bacon.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Add breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and stir them into the bacon fat. Continue to cook on low heat until the breadcrumbs are toasted, stirring frequently to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. If the breadcrumbs seem dry, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Chop bacon finely and stir into toasted breadcrumbs. (This can be refrigerated for up to a week.)
4 Check the pasta: After 90 minutes, lift the lid off the top of the slow cooker. It may look like a solid mass and may trick you into thinking it's done.
Give it a quick stir to incorporate any liquid that may be lingering underneath, making sure the noodles are completely covered or almost completely covered, but not swimming in liquid. Quickly replace the lid, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes on low.
5 Keep cooking the mac and cheese: At the 2-hour mark, check the mac and cheese again by stirring it together. Make sure it's loose and creamy but not soupy.
If it is loose and creamy, congratulations: it's ready. If it seems dry and the cheese seems like it's clumping together or not integrating, it means you need more liquid. Add another 1/2 cup of milk, stock, or water, and stir together.
Once you stir that in, it should make the sauce creamy again. Depending on your slow cooker, you may need up to two extra cups of liquid if your macaroni seems dry. And you may need an extra half hour to make it perfect. But it's important to stir and taste. You'll know.
6 Top with the reserved cheese: Once your pasta is cooked and the sauce is the right consistency, stir in the reserved cup of cheddar cheese to make it extra cheesy.
7 Serve: Serve the mac and cheese with crispy bacon topper and steamed veggies or a side salad. If you're omitting the bacon topping, taste and see if it needs salt and/or some freshly cracked black pepper.
Leftover macaroni and cheese reheats well in a pot. Add enough water to the empty pot to cover the bottom and let it heat until steaming. Then add cold macaroni and cheese and stir together until creamy and warmed through.
For the love of good macaroni and cheese, please don’t microwave this. Gummy pasta will be the result. It takes just a few minutes to reheat on the stovetop and is worth every minute. Enjoy!