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.
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 ½ 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 ⅓ 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
- The BEST Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Macaroni and Cheese Primavera
- Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
- Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
- Mac and Cheese with Mustard and Pickled Jalapeños
- Mac and Cheese with Chorizo and Poblanos
- Pasta Bianca
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!
Kid Friendly Mac and Cheese
- 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
- Heat the oven to 350°F and grease a 13×9-inch baking pan or a large casserole dish.
- Spoon ⅓ 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.