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Ranch Mac ’n Cheese & Fun With Math

  • Prep: 5 min
  • Total: 40 min
  • Cook: 35 min
  • Servings: 6
Ranch Mac ’n Cheese & Fun With Math

It’s simple to make and goes quickly at any family gathering (double the batch for tomorrow’s lunch). Learning to make this basic roux of milk and flour is a foundational culinary technique kids can add to their repertoire. They’ll be able to use this skill to make other dishes — cheese sauce for dipping broccoli or as a gravy on chicken dinners.

It’s also a great springboard for teaching math to kids of all ages. For the littles, we can teach counting with a few macaroni shells. And for big kids, addition, subtraction and even basic algebra can be visualized with the ingredients. Pairing cooking with math helps  kids retain more information and get more engaged.

Ingredients (6)

Steps (3)

Gather your ingredients and supplies.

  • 1
    Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Teachable Moment

    Teachable Moment

    Pasta comes in over 350 shapes from around the world! Different shapes are made for different sauces. For example, some noodles are great for catching different flavors in all their nooks and crannies, others are smooth for a more velvety feel when topped with a delicate flavor. What types of pasta are in your kitchen right now and what would they be tasty for? Mini Activity

    Mini Activity

    Little Kids: Wash the potatoes under cool running water, pat dry with a clean dish towel.
    Big Kids: Read through the entire recipe before beginning and cook pasta with mom or dad.
    Middle and High Schoolers: Cook pasta according to directions, drain and set aside.

  • 2
    While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam, then whisk in flour until smooth and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and seasoning mix and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Teachable Moment

    Teachable Moment

    “Mise en place” [sounds like me zahn plas] is French for “everything in its place.” It’s also the term for a cooking technique restaurant chefs and home cooks can use. The idea is you prep and measure all ingredients individually before you start the recipe – that way you’ll start with everything you need, which helps the cooking process flow smoothly. Mini Activity

    Mini Activity

    Little Kids: Bring a stool over to the stove and help stir the roux with 100% parental supervision.
    Big Kids: Measure all ingredients — remember, mise en place — and help mom and dad add ingredients to pan. Stir the final roux up yourself.
    Middle and High Schoolers: Measure out ingredients individually — remember, mise en place. Fire up the stove and follow the recipe.

  • 3
    Remove from heat, stir in the cheese until melted, then add the cooked pasta, mixing thoroughly. Serve hot. Teachable Moment

    Teachable Moment

    The cheesy goodness that coats all the pasta in classic mac ’n cheese is also one of France’s most important sauces: Mornay. Mornay sauce consists of a roux, a little milk and the addition of shredded cheese at the end. We’re using cheddar, but a French recipe might call for adding Gruyere or Emmental. It’s a simple technique, and with a little practice you can be a Master of Mornay. Mini Activity

    Mini Activity

    Little Kids: Sprinkle in the cheese and stir the pot while mom holds the hot pot with an oven mitt.
    Middle and High Schoolers: Follow instructions, put mac ’n cheese in a serving dish, garnish with a little sprinkle of Ranch seasoning and any fresh herbs you may have in the garden or fridge (optional).

Downloadable Activities