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Macaroni and Cheese

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Description

I’m all about homemade and that includes macaroni and cheese. A North American favourite this is a quick dish that is so easy a ten year old can make it from scratch. And should in my opinion.

When my son was young he learned to make it and requested it for Scout camp. My husband always attended as a chaperone and volunteer. He soon ended up making his mac and cheese . In Canada we refer to the familiar box of Kraft Dinner as KD. Since my husband’s name is Jim and he made this dish at every overnight camp it was eventually renamed JD.

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Basic White Sauce (AKA Béchamel Sauce)

A basic white sauce is considered one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. Simply melted butter with flour or cornstarch (known as a roux) with milk added to make a thick sauce. Some people make their white sauce with flour but I learned to make mine with cornstarch so it has always been gluten free.

Add cheese to this basic white sauce and that’s cheese sauce. Any type of cheese can be used but cheddar cheese is one of the classics. You might remember broccoli with cheese sauce.

A Roux with Flour vs Cornstarch

This is a basic recipe and there is little variation. But some of you might have learned to make a white sauce with flour. You can easily switch to gluten free by using half the amount of cornstarch. If your recipe calls for ¼ cup flour then change it to 2 Tbsp cornstarch. There are also a few more tricks to making a successful white sauce.

  • -don’t add the milk too quickly
  • -only add a third of the milk at a time
  • -warm the milk if you need to (I don’t)
  • -whisk, but don’t over whisk

If your sauce is still too thin you can save it by adding more cornstarch. A little practice is all you need and once you get the basic recipe nailed I say print it and attach it to the cornstarch container. My recipe has been stuck to the same container for thirty years yet I still look at it when I make this recipe.

The Tools

A basic sauce requires a few basic tools. For this recipe all you need is a whisk to make your roux, a few pots and some measuring cups. Kids might like these angled measuring cups which are easy to read from looking down into them. I like them for measuring milk and stock.

Orange Mac ‘n Cheese

Mac ‘n cheese in a box has a very orange coloured sauce with an assertive cheddar taste (it may be artificial but it does have a certain taste). Sharp cheddar is the preference in my kitchen and we like Kraft Maclaren’s Imperial sharp cold pack cheddar cheese product in the red plastic tub. It’s easy to find in the dairy section of any grocery store. It is a cheese product and although I prefer ‘real food’ as much as possible we think it makes the best sauce. It is gluten free (you can check the Kraft website) and it keeps well in the fridge. I buy two tubs when I find it on sale.

Beyond the Basic White Sauce

If Mac ‘n Cheese is a favourite in your house you can upscale it into Lobster Macaroni and Cheese for a special occasion.

A dish of gluten free Lobster Macaroni and Cheese decorated with the head and tail.
Lobster Macaroni and Cheese -photo credit Jim Little

I use this same white sauce recipe with Swiss Cheese to make these Eggs Florentine.

Gluten Free Eggs Florentine
Eggs Florentine -photo credit Jim Little

If you’re not a fan of Hollandaise Sauce you can make the usual Eggs Benedict but substitute this white sauce with the cheese of your choice. If you really like it you could do the same on a Breakfast Power Bowl, because in your kitchen you get to do it your way.

Breakfast Power Bowl sans bowl
Breakfast Power Bowl sans bowl -photo credit Jim Little

Add-Ins

This recipe is a basic starting point and once you have the process perfected you can add what you like. Think frozen or leftover cooked vegetables or meat, or everyone’s favourite (but not mine) bacon.

So if you want to enjoy macaroni and cheese as a quick snack spend a few minutes organizing in the kitchen so you can make this in 12 minutes, maybe 10. Ready, set, go!

Let me know your favourite version or your best time in the comments below.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp butter
1- 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup crumbled, sharp cheddar cheese (half a 230g tub of sharp cheddar)
8 oz GF pasta (brown rice, wild rice, corn, quinoa etc)
½ cup chopped, cooked bacon (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

1
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile make the cheese sauce.
2
In saucepan melt butter. Add cornstarch, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth.
3
When thickened slowly pour in 1/3 of the milk. Stir until thickened. Add the next 1/3, thicken again and then the final 1/3.
4
When sauce has thickened the last time, add cheese and continue stirring until evenly melted.
5
Pour sauce over drained pasta.
6
Fold in cooked bacon or any additions you like.
7
Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve.

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