Today I'm going to start with a little math equation. But this is food math, so you're going to love it.
If a = I love me some mac and cheese and b = I am lazy, then a + b = slow cooker mac and cheese.
See? Food math is awesome!
The problem with some crockpot mac and cheese recipes is that they get all burned around the edges, which, frankly, is a huge letdown. This one is the exception. The texture and consistency is the same as oven-baked mac and cheese, plus the edges get nicely browned but don't char.
Plus, there's no pre-cooking of sauce or anything like that. I generally shun crockpot recipes that require you to pre-cook ingredients (read: dirty a bunch of other pans and defeat the throw-it-all-in-and-walk-out-the-door simplicity of the crockpot).
(Aside: You may notice that I use the terms "crockpot" and "slow cooker" interchangeably -- this is because, based on an informal survey I conducted on my Facebook page, so do you and I want to make sure all of you are happy. Because that's the kind of Ninj I am.)
Being the Ninj, I just had to mess around with the recipe a bit, though. You know, by throwing some bacon into it, for which I am developing a bit of a reputation. But I also added some tomatoes, which cooked down beautifully and added a little extra zing, while also making it a great one-pot dinner.
Another cool thing about this recipe is that it has a relatively short cooking time, so it doesn't have to be an all-day affair. That is, you can sleep in on a weekend, lazily assemble the mac and cheese in the afternoon while still having time to enjoy yourself, run errands, read a book, whatever before dinner is ready.
I'm not going to try to convince you that this is the greatest or only crockpot mac and cheese recipe out there. All you have to do is search on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean. But I know that many of you trust me to be your recipe tester. I'm honored by that and take my "job" seriously -- I don't want you making crap for dinner and blaming me, ha ha ha.
So trust me. In this case, a + b really does equal delicious and easy crockpot mac and cheese.
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Tomatoes(slightly adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)
This recipe yields a lot of servings but it freezes really well and makes great brown-bag lunch leftovers.
1 1/2 cups skim milk
One can (approx. 15 ounces) evaporated skim milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use Cabot Seriously Sharp)
8 ounces uncooked small pasta (I used elbows)
2/3 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
3-4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Coat the crock of your slow cooker generously with non-stick spray. In a bowl, whisk together both kinds of milk, egg, salt and pepper, then pour the mixture into the crock. Add the cheese, pasta, tomatoes and bacon and give it all a stir. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of the mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for about 3 1/2 hours (it will look set and the edges will be browned).