Let me just start by saying that I hate microwave recipes. Truly I think most of them are absolutely disgusting and any time saved isn't worth the outcome. When I found a recipe for microwave mac and cheese, I was truly skeptical. Initially, the recipe I found was from Tasty and it was... ok.
Trial and Error Attempts
Before I even dared to attempt the recipe, I read through the first 10 or so pages of reviews and tweaked the recipe a fair amount. The first attempt was okay, but certainly wasn't up to par with my regular Mac and Cheese game.
Over time, I started making tweaks to the recipe and eventually settled on a ratio that works consistently well no matter what pasta shape you use.
The Magic Ratio
The base recipe, for 2 servings, only contains 3 ingredients + water. There's a few add-ins and add-ons that I find really transform the dish, but you can get a really outstanding and effortless meal with only noodles, water, cheese and salt.
Basically any noodle works for this if you measure it in weight and not volume. I find the best noodles are either macaroni or shells.
Another functional option is rotini and noodles like them, but I find they can take slightly longer to cook. I like to avoid long noodles like spaghetti and linguine or fettuccine because they don't cook equally unless you break them in half.
Again, almost any cheese will work, but the best cheese to use is one that not only melts but can incorporate well into a sauce. Think cheddar, gouda and gruyere instead of mozzarella or pizza cheeses.
Ingredient Additions to Impress
Honestly all you really need is water, noodles, cheese and salt, but there's a few things I find add an enormous boost to this recipe without much effort or cost.
For one, I love either a Boursin or Cream Cheese. If you use cream cheese instead of Boursin, a drop of yellow mustard and pinch of nutmeg brings the recipe to the next level. As shown above, the Garlic and Fine Herbs is my favourite addition. It's a single ingredient that adds a ton of flavour and a super smooth texture, making this microwave mac and cheese recipe seem like it was made from a roux.
All you need for equipment is a microwave and a microwave safe bowl. If you want to step up the mac and cheese game a little, having a blow torch is a bonus. Equally, if you microwave safe bowl is also oven proof, you can skip the blow torch and use your broiler.
To start, measure out 3 oz of your noodle of choice. Add about 8 oz of water and a dash of salt. To get consistent results no matter your pasta shape, it's very helpful to weigh out these ingredients. If you don't have a scale, it works out to about a cup of macaroni noodles and about 1 and ¼ cup of water.
Stir to combine and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove (carefully, the bowl is hot) from the microwave after the time is up.
It's very important that there is still liquid in the bowl as this is what brings the sauce together. If you've ever saved pasta water, this is pasta water on a wild drug binge. It's super concentrated starch water, and it's why we don't need to make a roux for. this to work.
Add in about ½ cup of cheese of choice and optionally either:
- 1 tablespoon of Garlic and Fine Herb Boursin
- 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
- ¼ teaspoon of mustard
- 1 pinch of nutmeg
After you cheese and bonus ingredient(s) are added, return your dish to the microwave for another 2 minutes. When it's out, it may still be slightly watery. Stir it to combine and allow to cool slightly.
This dish is ready to serve right now, but if you want a super delicious take on this microwave mac and cheese recipe, there are a few additions you can make that take less than a minute and really step this up.
Optional Additions to Transform Your Microwave Mac and Cheese Game
To achieve the picture above, I topped my microwave mac and cheese with crispy onions and grated cheese, and then took my handy mini blow torch and melted / crisped the cheese. Even if you don't put this under a blow torch or broiler, the addition of crispy onions is almost non-negotiable in my eyes.
Some other additions I love are frozen peas, mixed frozen veggies (mostly corn and peas), shredded chicken or pulled pork, or cooked broccoli. This goes not only for microwave mac and cheese, but any pasta.
If you want something a little fancier to impress your dinner guests, try my Sriracha Fried Chicken Mac and Cheese with Maple Butter!
Really you're only limited by your imagination with this recipe. Any addition to microwave mac and cheese will be a good one, it's all about taking this recipe and using it as a tool to use up food in your house that's close to it's expiry or that you're trying to incorporate more of.
5 Ingredient Microwave Mac and Cheese
- 3 oz macaroni noodles
- ½ cup cheddar cheese grated
- 1 tablespoon herb and garlic Boursin optional
- 1 cup water, plus 2 tbsp or about 8oz
- 1 tablespoon crispy onions optional
- Measure out 3 ounces of pasta of choice. For macaroni, this is about one cup. Add the pasta to a microwave safe bowl and combine with 8 ounces of water (about 1 cup and 2 tablespoons).
- Microwave the pasta and water on high for 5 minutes. Remove the bowl and stir the noodles. There should still be a few tablespoons of water in the dish. This is important to be able to form a sauce without flour.
- Add in the cheese and optionally either Boursin or cream cheese and seasonings. Stir until the cheese is mostly melted.
- Microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir to combine and let sit for 1-2 minutes.
- To make this more "elegant", you can top this with some kind of crispy topping and additional cheese. Breadcrumbs work, but I prefer crispy onions. Top the crispy topping with more grated cheese and either broil or torch it until slightly browned.