Today’s Old Fashioned Creamy Mac and Cheese is a fond look back on a childhood memory. My mother’s homemade mac and cheese was always one of my favorites, the perfect comforting meal for our family!
My brothers grew up during the really lean years with lots of casseroles on regular rotation until they got to the point that they never wanted to see one again. I was the youngest so my father was beginning to make more money by the time I joined the gang. Unlike my brothers, I was always excited when mom would make her tuna casserole, chipped beef on toast, or a host of other comfort foods.
Comfort foods always got a hooray from me because they were full of the flavors I loved. Of them all, mac and cheese was and still is my favorite. Rich, cheesy goodness in every single bite, what’s not to love.
When I was forced to go gluten free for my health, I thought I would never be able to have good pasta again. And, being married to an Italian, it was a brutal change for both of us (he went gluten free with me). We tried gluten-free pastas, one after another, never really getting close to what we both craved. But over time we found a few that worked pretty well and slowly reintroduced pasta back into our diet.
The trick to gluten-free mac and cheese, besides a good cheese sauce, is to use a pasta strong enough to stand up to the heaviness of the sauce. Tonight we used Barilla elbows and they worked great. The Artist even said it would be hard to tell them apart from regular pasta!
I am grateful to all the companies who are making gluten-free products, helping to make our lives much more palatable. This Old Fashioned Creamy Mac and Cheese is one way to improve our rotating meal plans.
Have a fabulous weekend, enjoy the Olympics, and I will see you back here for Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you reheat the leftovers, always add a little water to rehydrate the pasta!
Use a firm pasta that will stand up to the weight of the sauce. Tonight we used Barilla elbows.
- 12 oz elbow macaroni, gluten-free if needed
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup half and half
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 3/4 lb Colby Jack cheese, grated
- 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Paprika, for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk until it is completely incorporated and you have a smooth paste. Cook, whisking regularly, for about 3 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking after each addition until it is fully incorporated before adding more. Bring to a boil, whisking. Stir in the thyme. Continue to cook and whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
- In a large bowl, toss together the two grated cheeses. Remove 1/4 of the cheeses and set aside. Add the remaining grated cheese to the thickened milk sauce, a handful at a time, whisking until it is melted before adding more. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a little water, mixing until fully blended. Add the cooked macaroni, stirring until all the pieces are coated with the cheese sauce.
- Transfer to the prepared baking pan, smoothing it into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top. Add some Parmesan on top of the cheese.
- Bake until the cheese on top is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
- Yield: about 4 to 6 servings
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