Cooking with Kids: Kid Friendly Mac and Cheese

May 6, 2013 (Last Updated: March 21, 2020)
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This kid friendly mac and cheese recipe is not only delicious, but it’s super easy for kids to make themselves! It requires minimal adult supervision, and is made simply by layering ingredients in a casserole dish, then baking. If you’d like a fun recipe the whole family can enjoy making and eating together, this is for you.

Remy's macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese has been a staple on children’s menus for decades. It’s often a dish that people of all age, from young children to adults, readily enjoy. Whether it’s a boxed variety, a homemade stove-top version, or a bubbly casserole, mac and cheese is a reliable favorite.

But there is something that makes this kid friendly mac and cheese better than all the rest. This simple, straight-forward recipe is extremely easy for kids to make! One of the reasons it’s perfect for cooking with kids is because it comes from a cookbook designed specifically for cooking with kids. This Ratatouille themed cookbook includes an introduction and recipe from Thomas Keller. He’s one of my favorite chefs and the one responsible for the upscale version of ratatouille featured in the film. The recipes vary in difficulty level, but are geared toward children being able to prepare them with minimal adult help.

Meet my nephew Alex, who’s 4 1/2 years old here. He was ecstatic to make this recipe nearly on his own.

Instead of making a traditional Bechamel, this version utilizes a much more straightforward method of layering macaroni, milk, and sliced cheese. The result when it comes out of the oven is a bit liquidy, I’m not gonna lie. However, allow the casserole to rest for a few minutes, and mix the macaroni a bit. Then the sauce seems to thicken and clings to the macaroni pretty well. This kid friendly macaroni and cheese is really perfect for enthusiastic kids who want to do it themselves!

How to make it

The adult in this equation will need to do a tiny bit of prep work before beginning assembly. Boil and drain your macaroni. I suggest cooking it a bit shy of al dente. It will continue to cook and absorb some milk in the oven. Measure out the milk or half-and-half, and set out the sliced cheese, and Ritz crackers. Grease a casserole dish and preheat the oven. Now you’re ready to get started!

First, spoon 1/3 of the cooked macaroni into the prepared casserole dish.

Next, pour 1 cup of the milk over the macaroni.

Cover the casserole dish from end to end with slices of cheese. We used deli-sliced American cheese for a mild, creamy flavor, but you can use cheddar for a more sharper taste.

Repeat with 2 more layers of macaroni, milk, and cheese. Next is the fun part, crushing the crackers for the topping! The best way to do this is to place the Ritz crackers in a zip-top bag and just crush away!

Season the crushed crackers with salt, pepper, and paprika, then spread over the top of the prepared casserole. Then bake until bubbly. It’s that easy!

Alex loved making this dish. He took pride in his work and the result was actually quite good. I appreciated the lightness of it all compared to a much more decadent variation I would typically make with Bechamel and much more cheese. This is a very kid friendly mac and cheese not only because of its simplicity but also its mild flavor. Adults may also choose to enjoy this recipe as a side dish alongside a protein.

Also, my 1-year-old nephew who until this experience didn’t like pasta totally loved this macaroni and cheese. He would even feed himself with a fork (something new indeed).

I think this is a really fun and easy-to-make version of macaroni and cheese that kids would love to make and eat. The only things I did were to boil and drain the macaroni, and measure out the ingredients for Alex to assemble. Oh, and also working the oven, of course 🙂 At the end of the day, seeing him smile at his accomplishment was absolutely worth it!

Other macaroni and cheese recipes you may like

What are your favorite recipes for cooking with kids? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to rate this recipe if you’ve tried it. Thanks!

a spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese

Kid Friendly Mac and Cheese

Victoria
This kid friendly mac and cheese recipe is not only delicious, but it's super easy for kids to make themselves! It requires minimal adult supervision, and is made simply by layering ingredients in a casserole dish, then baking. If you'd like a fun recipe the whole family can enjoy making and eating together, this is for you.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 to 8 servings
Calories 631 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions (I suggest just shy of al dente)
  • 3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
  • 12 to 18 slices American or cheddar cheese
  • 12 to 15 Ritz crackers
  • Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 13×9-inch baking pan or a large casserole dish.
  • Spoon 1/3 of the cooked macaroni into the pan, then pour in 1 cup of the half-and-half or milk and cover everything with 4 to 6 slices of cheese. Add two more layers of pasta, half-and-half or milk, and cheese.
  • Place the crackers in a ziplock bag and crush. Add the salt, pepper, and paprika, then sprinkle the crumbs on top of the pasta and cheese. Bake until bubbly, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Notes & Nutrition

Adapted from Ratatouille – What’s Cooking? A Cookbook For Kids
Servings 6.0 * calories 631 * Total Fat 30 g * Saturated Fat 15 g * Monounsaturated Fat 1 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 75 mg * Sodium 1113 mg * Potassium 191 mg * Total Carbohydrate 72 g * Dietary Fiber 3 g * Sugars 13 g * Protein 26 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    AJ
    March 22, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    5 stars
    It’s super yummy and was so awesome to cook with my 2.5 year old! (Although, she was slightly more interested in eating the components rather than putting them together in the dish!) We added some defrosted chopped broccoli for a bit of green. Thank you for the fun activity/ delicious meal!

  • Reply
    Patty
    March 25, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for lunch. Put a little milk in it and a little of the starchy pasta water. I thought I had crackers but only had breadcrumbs. But did the sliced cheese. Added some Italian spices and it was sooooooooooooooo delicious. I can’t wait to have to rest for dinner tonight!

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