We’ll never say no to a smart dinner shortcut, whether it’s cooking broccoli directly in the pasta water or using prepared hashbrowns to make potato pancakes. So when we saw microwave homemade mac ‘n’ cheese trending on Pinterest, we were curious if it was as quick and easy as it sounded.
The basic idea is that you can place a single serving of dried pasta in a mug, cover it with water, and microwave until al dente—presumably less time and clean-up than cooking it on the stovetop. But in my initial test, the water boiled over and spilled onto the entire surface of the microwave, leaving me with a mess of hot water and a mug-shaped clump of barely-cooked noodles.
For round two, I tried covering the mug with plastic wrap in hopes that it would a) prevent the water from spilling and b) help the pasta cook more quickly, by way of steam. No such luck. The water spilled out once again. My conclusion: Making mac and cheese in a mug simply does not work.
Before you get too discouraged, know that it is possible to cook pasta in the microwave (just not in a mug). To do so, place 1½ cups of dried noodles (short shapes work best) in a large bowl, add 1 cup of water, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for two minutes, stir (breaking up any clumps of noodles), then continue heating in two minute intervals until al dente, about six minutes total. Top with shredded cheese, a splash of milk, and a pat of butter, give it a stir (any extra starchy water will help simulate a cheese sauce), then microwave for one more minute, or until the cheese is melted. That should make enough for about two servings.
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But a final question remains: just because you can cook pasta in the microwave, does that mean you should? Most boxed pastas are ready in 7-8 minutes on the stovetop, so you’re really not saving yourself much time. Plus, stirring grated cheese into pasta won’t create the same type of rich, creamy sauce that a traditional roux will. Ultimately, it's a good hack for dorm-dwelling college students. Otherwise, stick to the good ol' fashioned pot of boiling water.