This dish is as simple as cooking the pasta, making the sauce and combining the two together. The only thing that makes it “adult” is that we’re going to be using a lot of the “good stuff” cheeses!
🎉 Here’s why you’ll want to make a (double!) batch of this recipe:
- It’s incredibly easy to make and irresistibly cheesy and gooey.
- It takes 15-20 minutes to throw together.
- It is clean eating and gluten free as well as (lacto) vegetarian friendly.
- It’s made using simple, wholesome ingredients.
- It is high in protein and calcium and a great way to sneak in some whole grains into your diet (depending on the pasta used).
- The levels of cheese and even spice can be adjusted to suit your preference.
- You can top it with any of your favorite toppings from cheese to herbs to sour cream.
- You can enjoy it as a main meal or as a side. (I’ve listed some pairings towards the end of the post!)
Let’s talk about what ingredients we’ll be needing:
- Whole Milk: I highly recommend using a full-fat whole milk for this recipe for the best results.
- Butter: Salted or unsalted the choice is yours.
- Flour: To keep the recipe gluten-free, I’m using Bob’s 1-1 gluten free all purpose flour blend. If you’re not concerned about gluten you can use equal amounts of white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Bursting with umami, sour, sweet and savory notes, a small touch of this sauce adds a great dimension to our dish.
- Stone Ground Mustard: The slight touch of acidity from the mustard helps to complement the rich creaminess of the cheese sauce.
- Spices: I’m using 3 kinds of ground peppers – black, white and chipotle along with a touch of ground nutmeg to take our sauce to the next level.
- Pasta: You can use any elbow pasta of your choosing but to make the recipe gluten-free I’m using a gluten free pasta. There are several brands that make gluten free elbow pasta from ingredients such as corn, quinoa, and brown rice. They are honestly great alternatives that cook and have the same bite and chew as regular wheat pasta!
- Cheeses: Using a blend of cheeses is perhaps one of the best ways to elevate your mac and cheese. A great tip I can give you here is to use block cheese you shred yourself. Using pre-shredded cheese will alter the texture of your sauce due to the use of anti-caking agents in it. Today I’m using the following 4 types:
- 6 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar.
- 4 oz Gouda.
- 4 oz Gruyere.
- 2 oz Parmesan.
Another way of elevating your dish is to use a smoked cheese (such as a smoked cheddar or smoked gouda) if you enjoy that flavor profile. If you’re using a smoked cheese I recommend swapping out only 2-3 oz of the above cheese for your smoked cheese version so as to not overwhelm the dish.
Serving this recipe to a someone who may not appreciate the sharpness of the more potent cheeses?
No problem! I get that some cheese flavors may not be for everyone and some people might prefer a more pared down version. In that case I have the perfect time-tested combination for you. Swap the above cheeses for the following:
- 6 oz Sharp Cheddar.
- 4 oz Pepper Jack.
- 4 oz Gouda.
- 2 oz Parmesan.
Fair warning: This is going to get Cheesy!
We’re going to set the water for our pasta to boil and we’ll be cooking the pasta to one minute less than the recommended cook time for al dente according to your pasta’s package directions. Once done, drain and set your pasta aside.
Next comes our cheese sauce. Making it is as simple as melting our butter on med heat (1), then lowering and adding in our flour that we’ll then cook for 1-2 minutes (2,3).
Then, we’ll add in half cup of milk and begin whisking immediately to combine it until a smooth, lump-free paste forms (4), then add in 1 cup of milk, and raise the heat to medium and allow the sauce to thicken before adding in the last of the milk and bringing to a simmer (5). Add in the seasoning – mustard, Worcestershire sauce, peppers and nutmeg (6).
Turn off the heat and add in half of your cheese and fold it in until melted (7). Once incorporated, add in the other half and mix until you have a smooth and rich cheese sauce (8,9). Let your sauce rest for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust your seasonings as needed.
Add your sauce into your (cooked and drained) pasta and fold it in so that all your macaroni is covered in the sauce. Once mixed, cover and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows your pasta to absorb some of the cheese sauce and finish cooking thanks to the residual heat without making it soggy or overcooked.
All that’s left to do is plate your gloriously creamy and cheesy mac and cheese and pair it with any veggie or protein of your choosing 👀 Let me give you a few inspo ideas… 👇👇👇
Pair your Mac and Cheese with any of the following:
- Simple Sautéed (Rainbow) Chard
- Skillet Charred Green Beans
- Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts
- Sautéed Broccolini
- Creamy Coleslaw
- Cheesy Bacon Butternut Squash
- Honey-glazed Carrots
🐔🦃 Chicken & Turkey:
- Easy Crispy (Air) Fried Chicken Thighs (GF)
- Blackened Chipotle Chicken (GF)
- Healthy Popcorn Chicken
- Incredibly Easy Pan Fried Chicken Drumsticks (GF)
- Parmesan-Herb Crusted Chicken
- The Easiest Pan-Seared Chicken Recipe Ever (GF)
- Caribbean Style Stew Chicken (GF)
- Salisbury Turkey Meatballs
🐮🐷 Beef & Pork:
- The Perfect Skillet Steak (GF)
- Grilled Beef Heart with a Chimichurri Sauce (GF)
- Kitrusy’s Chili Con Carne (GF) – pairing your mac and cheese with this makes a phenomenal chili mac!
- Oven-Roasted BBQ Pulled Pork
🦐🐟 Shrimp & Fish:
- Coconut Shrimp (GF)
- Batter-Fried Shrimp
- Chipotle Shrimp (GF)
- Crunchy Pan-Fried Lemon Pepper Fish Fillets
- Salmon and Vegetable Tray-Bake (GF)
Did you try this recipe? What did you pair with it? Let us know by leaving a comment and rating below, or by connecting with us (@kitrusycleaneat and #kitrusy) and don’t forget to show off your pics and tag us so we can celebrate your delectable creations together! 🥳
Adult Mac and Cheese (Gluten Free)
- 6 oz elbow pasta (wheat or gluten free pasta)
- 3 tbsp salted butter
- 3 tbsp Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour (or whole wheat pastry if not gluten-free)
- 1½ cups Whole Milk (may need an extra ¼-½ cup depending on your preferred consistency)
- 6 oz cheddar cheese grated (extra sharp is highly recommended)
- 4 oz gruyere grated
- 4 oz gouda grated
- 2 oz Parmesan cheese grated (or Pecorino Romano)
- 1/2 tbsp stone ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp Chipotle Powder (optional)
- Himalayan salt (to taste)
- Cook your pasta: Cook your pasta to one minute under al dente according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Make the Cheese Sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan, lower heat and add the flour. Cook the butter and flour together for 1-2 minutes stirring and moving it around so it doesn't burn.
- Add in half cup milk, stirring vigorously until it starts to thicken until there are no lumps.
- Raise the heat to med-high and add 1 cup milk, stir until it thickens before adding the final cup. You want the sauce to already be very thick at this stage.
- Add in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ground nutmeg, and white, black and chipotle peppers to taste.
- Turn off your heat and add in half of your cheeses. Fold until fully incorporated and mix in the remaining half until your sauce is thick and smooth. Let your sauce rest for 5 minutes before tasting and adjusting your seasoning.
- Add Pasta and Rest: Fold in your sauce to your pasta and let it rest for 10 minutes before enjoying.Pair your mac and cheese with any of your favorite sides.
- Storing Leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Or in the freezer for 1-2 months.
- If you enjoy the smoky flavor of cheeses you can use 2-3 oz of cheese in the recipe with a smoked cheese. Just enough for the flavor but not enough to overwhelm the dish. Smoked cheddar and smoked gouda are great options.
- For a more kid-friendly version, swap out your more potent cheeses. I highly recommend using 6oz extra sharp Cheddar, 4 oz Gouda, 4 oz Pepper Jack and 2 oz of Parmesan as well as reducing the amounts of ground pepper in the recipe so that it's not too spicy.
- It's important to cook your pasta to just under al dente (about a minute under your pasta's package cooking directions) so that when you add the hot cheese sauce your pasta can finish cooking and can absorb some of the sauce without being too soggy.