What to Cook the Night Before Thanksgiving? A Cheap, Easy, Slow Cooker Macaroni or Pasta and Cheese
Don't have time for a lot of noodling around this week? Make an easy macaroni or pasta and cheese supper in your slow cooker--it's much better and less expensive than ordering pizza! No pre-boiling of the noodles is necessary. The dish is easy to put together and cooks in 3-4 hours in your slow cooker. That means you can assemble the dish after lunch, free up your afternoon, and have dinner ready to go with little hassle. The trick to keeping the noodles from turning to mush is to microwave them with a little oil before adding the noodles to the slow cooker. Essentially, you're toasting the noodles a bit. I make the dish with macaroni--as per tradition--and I also like to use fancier noodles to dress up the recipe for company. In the photos, you'll see the dish made with tri-colored fusilli (red, white, and green). Just be aware that different-sized noodles may cook at slightly different rates (i.e., bigger noodles usually take a little longer to cook). How does the dish taste? It's creamy, slightly custard-like, and full of cheesy goodness. It should be. The recipe includes a little Parmesan cheese as well as plenty of shredded cheddar and chunks of Colby-Jack cheese, so you'll get bites of melted cheese as you go. The dish is fine as a meatless entree or toss in some chopped ham with the noodles if you'd like. The pasta is great served with just a salad and bread for an easy supper. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Macaroni or Pasta and Cheese -- Serves 6+
8 ounces of macaroni or small-medium pasta
1-2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 cup of low-fat cottage chees
3 cups of milk
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1-2 tablespoons of minced dried onions
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
4-5 ounces of Colby Jack cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Chopped parsley (optional)
Place the macaroni/pasta in a large microwave-safe bowl and drizzle on the oil. Stir to coat all the pasta with the oil. Microwave the pasta on high for 2-3 minutes until hot, steaming, and slightly nutty smelling. While the pasta is in the microwave, spritz the insert for a large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. When the pasta is hot, spread it evenly in the slow cooker and turn the slow cooker to high. Stir half of the shredded cheddar cheese and all of the Colby-Jack cheese in with the pasta. In the same bowl you used to microwave the pasta, whisk together the cottage cheese and eggs. Whisk in well the milk, Parmesan cheese, pepper, and minced dried onions. Pour the wet ingredients over the pasta and cheese. Cover the slow cooker and cook the macaroni/pasta and cheese for 3 hours. Turn the heat down to low and cook the macaroni and cheese for another hour, if necessary. During the last 15 minutes of cooking time, remove the lid from the slow cooker, sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top of the macaroni/pasta and recover the slow cooker. When the macaroni/pasta is done to your liking and the cheese has melted, remove the cover of the slow cooker, turn off the slow cooker, and let the macaroni/pasta and cheese stand for at least 10 minutes to firm up before serving. Sprinkle on some chopped parsley, if you like, to dress up the dish.