Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese (GF)
This lockdown for some reason or another seems harder than the last 4 - yes we are in Lockdown #5. I'm not sure if it because I am starting to feel the sense of Déjà vu from previous lockdowns or the fact that I am completely exhausted actually thinking about it. At times, I feel like a Hamster in the wheel - my legs are always moving but I am going absolutely nowhere.
So I decided today would be comfort food day, well in all honesty every day we are always looking for something delicious and enjoyable. The common answer to "What would you like for dinner tonight?" is "Something nice!" It can be at times very hard when we are both Foodies and are always on the hunt for something that satisfies our tastebuds, senses and in the current state of life even our emotions need to be taken into consideration. With that in mind there was no other dish to make that fits all the requirements as mentioned and that is good old Mac and Cheese.
Macaroni and cheese aka Mac 'n' Cheese in the States, or Macaroni Cheese in the UK is a dish is basically exactly how it sounds pasta and cheese. Traditionally Macaroni and Cheese was baked in the oven; however, it can also be cooked on the stove top or if you are in a hurry or desperate there are various packaged mixes available (apologies to those that are a fan of these off the shelf mixes).
So, what makes this dish held in high regard on the comfort scale? It’s simple really – it’s the gooey cheesy creamy sauce that smothers the pasta with every mouthful and the occasional added crunch from the crispy topping when it’s baked in the oven. There are no more words to describe this dish except for YUM!
Now let’s be serious and talk about this easy to make yet easy to fail recipe.
Firstly, the pasta. This is the most important instruction I can provide. Do not overcook it. My rule of thumb is to reduce the cooking time of the pasta (depending on the brand/type) by at least one minute. You must remember that the pasta will continue to cook further when nestling nicely in the sauce in the oven. Drain the pasta, return to the pan and add butter. This actually stops the pasta from absorbing more liquid whilst it’s in the oven.
Secondly, you need to make a smooth Béchamel sauce to form the base for the Mornay sauce. No lumps. Use a whisk to ensure you mix the roux into a smooth paste before adding all the milk. Do this off the heat as the roux will continue to cook otherwise and thicken making it hard to make the required paste. You can now add additional seasonings than those in the recipe at this stage.
Once you have flavoured the sauce to your liking you need for it to thicken and we do this by constantly stirring once all the milk has been added for at least 5 minutes. This ensures that the sauce will be smooth and silky like a creamy custard and by continually moving the sauce in the pan it will ensure that it doesn’t catch and burn in this process. Remove pan from heat once sauce is at required consistency.
While we are talking sauce – the one good thing about this recipe is you can adjust the sauce quantities to suit what you are wanting to achieve. These quantities make a nice creamy gooey mac and cheese. If you want more sauce add more sauce and cheese ingredients. However to make it more like a slice don’t adjust the recipe just cook it for a bit longer.
In goes the cheesy goodness – for this amount of sauce a good Mac and Cheese you need 3 cups of grated cheese. Two cups of a cheddar or similar and one cup of mozzarella. My advice, although time consuming, freshly grate the cheeses yourself. Shop purchased pre grated have anti caking agents which may cause your sauce to have a grainy texture. Saying this, by all means use, whatever you have available. Mix cheese through sauce until combined. At this stage there is no need for the cheese to completely melt through – it will do that in the oven.
Now you are ready to marry the cooked macaroni and the sauce together. Pour macaroni into the sauce. Stir quickly ensuring that the pasta is completely mixed through the sauce and it looks like it is ready to eat right now. Pour out into prepared casserole dish.
Sprinkle the casserole dish evenly with your prepared crunchy topping mix. Now you can also add some herbs or spices into this mixture depending on your taste. I sometimes add some smoke paprika, oregano or thyme just to give it a little twist but this is not imperative.
This is where patience is required – the patience to wait the 20 minutes or so while it’s in the oven finishing itself off….. tick tick tick!!
Whether you eat this by itself as a definite comfort meal (happens a fair bit in our house) or you have it as a side dish with meat of your choice, I am more than 100% sure that you will all approve of this recipe. It’s been tried and tested at ours for many years and both of our children will testify that it’s one of their favourites. Let us know what you think?
Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese (GF)
💚 8 sp per serve
💙 8 sp per serve
💜 8 sp per serve
250 grams gluten free macaroni or pasta of your choice
110 grams butter
1/3 cup gluten free plain flour
3 cups skim milk , warmed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 1/4 cups grated lite tasty cheese
1 cup grated lite mozzarella cheese
salt, to taste
2/3 cup gluten free panko breadcrumbs
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add macaroni and cook for 1 minute less than packet directions.
Drain, return pasta to pot, add 20 grams butter and toss until melted. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large saucepan melt 60 grams butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Add about 1 cup of the milk and mix, using a whisk, to a smooth paste. Add remaining milk and mix ensuring the sauce is lump free. Mix in the garlic powder, mustard and pepper.
Cook, whisking continuously for 5 - 8 minutes until sauce has thickened.
Remove from heat. Add 2 cups of tasty cheese and all the mozzarella - mix to combine (cheese does not need to melt completely) .
Add cooked macaroni to the sauce. Stir , mixing the pasta completely through the sauce and then pour mixture intro prepared baking dish.
In a mixing bowl melt remaining butter. Mix panko breadcrumb with butter and remaining cheese. Sprinkle with breadcrumb topping over the pasta mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes or until top is light golden. If cooking from cold cook for 25 - 30 minutes.