These are the first words you'll find in Plain Chicken's blog entry for this absolutely wonderful recipe. I haven't cooked much in a while, as you have noticed, I'm sure. But, when I saw this recipe and knew I had pretty much all the ingredients (and knowing that I LOVE macaroni and cheese), I just HAD to make it. Of course, it was after 9:00 when I began, but I've never been much of a clock watcher when it comes to eating, so when the mood strikes, I follow it.
I am so glad I did. First, let me tell you of some adjustments I had to make out of necessity. The first was the cream cheese. I had none. And, I didn't have money to buy any. But, I had ricotta on hand, so guess what? I used ricotta cheese. Secondly, I didn't have four cups of cheddar cheese. I had about three cups of Mexican blend cheddar and Jack plus shredded Mozzarella. Guess what again? I used it! Thirdly, I didn't have onion salt. Instead, I used dried minced onion. It turned out just fine. Lastly, I added more liquid because it just seemed like it needed it. I was right. But, that could be just me, so follow the recipe the first time and make that decision for yourself.
The thing I loved most of all about this was that it was all thrown together into one dish (or, in my case, two dishes since I didn't have a single dish big enough) and put into the oven. No pots of boiling water heating up the already warm kitchen from this summer heat, no pots coated with sticky cheese sauce that would then be poured over the already cooked macaroni, and no major mess in the kitchen. I did use a large bowl to mix everything because of the already mentioned lack of a large casserole dish, but since nothing is baked into it, it's easy to clean.
I will say this, though. Be sure to add the flour BEFORE you add the cheese and macaroni. It will be easier to blend into the liquid that way. Despite that, it turned out wonderful!
Now, I'm a big fan of easy, so I am absolutely thrilled with this recipe and that it turned out so well. It's obviously flexible or it wouldn't have turned out so well with the adjustments I made. And, it's so much easier to put unboiled macaroni in than it is to know when it's reached the al dente stage. In fact, it wasn't until I made no-boil lasagna that I finally had a wonderful firm pan of lasagna that didn't slip-slide away while it was being cut, so I'm a huge no-boil fan. And, trust me - you don't need no-boil pasta to make a no-boil recipe. That's just an added expense that's unnecessary. I just make sure there's enough liquid for the pasta to absorb while it's cooking - which is what this needed for me. I think it's because I used two smaller casserole dishes instead of one large one. I probably should have reduced the cooking time, but no matter. I'm just so happy with how it turned out.
Don't be afraid to try this one. It'll be worth it!