The one and only dish I remember my dad cooking for us growing up was boxed macaroni and cheese with diced up hot dogs, spread into a 9×13 pan and baked in the oven. I am sure he only entered into this task under duress; my mom was in the hospital and with four kids to feed, he had to come up with something. The ladies from church had brought food, good food, but apparently not this night. I remember watching him as he set the orange, bubbling dish on the stove top and thinking, you’ve got to be kidding, Mom would never serve us this for dinner. And so began my dislike for the boxed variety of macaroni and cheese.
Homemade mac & cheese, on the other hand, is a completely different food. Pasta baked in a smooth, creamy cheese sauce. Real cheese sauce, mind you. From real cheese, that requires refrigeration and grating.
There are so many recipes for homemade mac & cheese, and I must say most of them are quite good. Nothing at all like the powder packet that comes in those little blue boxes. However, some recipes are better than others, and this recipe is definitely my favorite.
It is based on a Gourmet recipe and with extra-sharp Cheddar and Dijon mustard it is a grown-up take on the classic dish; probably not something kids used to the boxed, orange variety will be too excited about. But for those of us with more sophisticated tastes, the creamy sauce combined with the crunchy topping is really quite delicious.
I use the food processor to make crumbs out of my gluten free loafs (this works especially well once they get dry and crumbly). I freeze the crumbs and when I want to use them I toss them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them for 10-15 minutes, or until dry and lightly toasted.
So, my dad’s birthday is coming up and I was thinking I should make him a pan of this Mac & Cheese, being sure of course to stir in some cut up hot dogs before placing it in the oven. And with the mustard, I believe the hot dogs just might work this time. I think he will agree, my version is way better than his original
Macaroni & Cheese
Although I really like the extra-sharp Cheddar/Dijon combination, you could use mild Cheddar, Colby-jack, or any other easy melting cheese for all of part of the cheese in this recipe.
- 2 TB butter, melted
- 2 cups dry bread crumbs (I just crumb whatever gf bread I have)
- 1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
cheese sauce & pasta:
1-16oz package gluten free pasta, cooked, rinsed and drained 3 TB butter 2 TB arrowroot powder 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 2 3/4 cups milk 3/4 cup heavy cream 4 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese 2 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400.
- To make the topping: in a bowl, combine the butter, bread crumbs and cheese and mix until combined.
- To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over med-low heat; add the arrowroot and pepper flakes, whisking for several minutes, until it thickens. Add milk in a steady stream and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until sauce will coat the back of a spoon. Add cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, stirring until smooth (this sauce isn’t super thick). Remove from heat and add cooked pasta.
- Pour into a 3-qt dish or 9×13 pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Allow to rest about 5 minutes before serving.