My version takes exactly as much time to make as something out of a box. It's a lot more labor-intensive, uses one more pot, and costs considerably more, but you can taste the difference immediately.
*8 oz (1/2 lb) elbow macaroni
1/2 small onion, diced
1 C white sauce base
1/8 tsp pepper
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 oz white wine or sherry (optional)
1. While pasta water is coming to a boil, dice onion and sautée in butter for white sauce.
2. Add pasta to boiling water. Add flour to butter and onion and stir into the roux. Slowly add milk to roux, remembering to stir pasta occasionally. When thickened, add pepper, cheese, and wine.
3. When cooked, drain pasta, rinse, and put into serving bowl. Pour cheese sauce on top and combine. Serve immediately.
Difficulty rating π