Pressure Cooker Fun with Macaroni & Cheese

I’ve had a pressure cooker/canner for years and I’ve only used it for canning and even then it’s very rare that I do that.  My pressure cooker is one of the old style jiggle and make a racket type pressure cookers and the gasket was getting pretty old.  Sometimes it would take ages for it to come up to pressure and by the time it did the water would boil away.

Needless to say, I wasn’t much for actually cooking food in it.  The only things I ever used the PC for other than canning was making boiled peanuts and once I cooked beef spare ribs in it.   In my mind I could see the disaster that would result if I tried any recipe that needed more than just turn it on and wait.

A couple weeks ago, though, I finally got a new pressure cooker. Fagor Splendid 10-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner It’s the Fagor Splendid 10 Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner.  I guess because it’s a 10 quart size it gets the moniker “canner” too.  I hadn’t noticed when I put it on my wish list that it only has one pressure — 15 psi.  Consequently, it’s not the best for canning after all.  But I have canned three quarts of homemade chicken stock.  It’s doable but it’s certainly not all that flexible if you can lots of different things.  For me, it’s mainly stock and spaghetti sauce.

As a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, I find myself obsessively buying their cookbooks and subscribing to their magazines.  I’ve never made a recipe of theirs I haven’t liked.  A couple haven’t ended up being my favorite, but they were definitely tasty without being a homerun.  So, of course I bought their book Pressure Cooker Perfection.  In it is a recipe for Stove-top Mac and Cheese  in the pressure cooker, of course.  One pot to clean and “from scratch” mac & cheese in less than 20 minutes!


Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes

  • 8 ounces (2 cups) uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, drained

Put the macaroni, water, 1 teaspoon of salt, the dry mustard and cayenne pepper in the pressure cooker.  Close and bring up to pressure.  Once pressure has been achieved, turn down the heat to low or medium low (as low as you can go and maintain pressure) and cook under pressure for 5 minutes.

At the end of 5 minutes, immediately release the pressure.  Add the evaporated milk and the tomatoes, and continue to simmer for about 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Remove the pot from the heat and then stir in the cheeses, one handful at a time to help them melt without being clumpy.

What I did differently:

I used shells.  The instructions say not to use larger pasta, such as ziti, because it won’t cook in the time given.  I was a bit worried about the shells because the instructions did suggest not to use medium shells but small shells would be fine.  I’m not sure if mine were small or medium.   They were a bit underdone right after the pressure was released but with the additional simmering, they ended up being a nice al dente.

Also the tomatoes were part of the variations you can make to the recipe.  I wasn’t quite sure when to put in the diced tomatoes.  In retrospect, I think it meant to put them in at the beginning with the raw pasta, but it worked just fine to put them in after the pressure is removed.

I used all Mild Cheddar cheese.  The instructions warn against using all sharp cheddar cheese because it won’t be as creamy without the Monterey Jack cheese.  I didn’t notice a lack of creaminess but next time I will be sure to try it as written.

Finally, I didn’t have any evaporated milk so I used an equal amount of half and half and added a tablespoon of butter into the pot at the beginning of the cooking so I could get the buttery flavor that you get with evaporated milk.  As with the cheese, I will definitely give it a try with evaporated milk next time to see if that makes a difference.

What I liked about the recipe:

Honestly, just about everything.  I thought it had a good flavor.  I purposely was a bit heavy on the cayenne (about 1/4 tsp instead of a pinch) so it had a little bite, but nothing that would turn off kids.  I also really liked the addition of the diced tomatoes.  I imagine that stirring in fresh diced tomatoes at the end would be even better.  I’ll test that this coming summer.

I loved that I only dirtied one pot.  I loved that I didn’t have to drain the macaroni.  You can’t get much easier than that.

What I didn’t like about the recipe:

This isn’t really a fair question since I made a number of substitutions.  I would have liked a thicker sauce from the get go but I’m relatively sure that my using half and half instead of evaporated milk affected that.

I will definitely be making this again.


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