macaroni and cheese

Mac and cheese is one of my family's favorite meals, and one of mine because it's so easy to make homemade. So while I have no doubt that Kraft's new adult version Macaroni & Cheese will be a big hit, I truly don't understand why it's necessary.

If you only have 10 minutes to get something on the table, then yes, boxed mac & cheese is a good emergency meal, and I have a few boxes (not Kraft, but another brand) in my pantry right now for that very purpose. But for most other nights, it only takes about 20-25 minutes tops to get a casserole dish of gooey, cheesy noodles into the oven -- well worth the minimal extra time for a homemade meal.

The new Homestyle version of mac and cheese comes in a bag and sells at $2.99, according to the Chicago Tribune. It comes with wider, curvier noodles, a packet of gooey orange cheese, breadcrumbs, and a seasoning packet, with which cooks make a base for the cheese sauce. It also includes an "optional oven finish," involving more cheese and an even-crispier breadcrumb topping that you can make by putting the dish in the oven for five minutes.

Mac and cheese is one of those meals that many people actually prefer from a box. My brother-in-law feels this way. When I made homemade mac and cheese with real cheddar and (very expensive) Gruyere cheeses over whole wheat pasta for my son's birthday party, half of his friends looked at me like I was serving them a bowl of garbage. "Mrs. Dermody, I thought you said we were having mac and cheese?"

There are ZILLIONS of recipes for mac and cheese. I've tried lots of them -- the ones made on the stove top with condensed milk, the ones where you sneak in cauliflower to make it healthier -- and all are good but I always default back to my classic approach: starting with a bechamel sauce, adding milk and cheese, and a little nutmeg. Sometimes I even mix in some sliced red onion; this may sound strange but it adds an awesome smoky flavor we all love. Mix with whole wheat pasta, sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top, put in the oven for 20 minutes, broil at the end to make the topping crunchy, and you're done.

Kraft's Homestyle may be good, but I guarantee you it's not as good as mine.

Will you try Kraft's new Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese?