Ah, Mac n Cheese – who doesn’t love mac and cheese? There’s something about the combination of crunchy, and creamy with some pasta joining the party that brings back childhood memories. Albeit, it was the gluten and dairy kind from the Boston Market where I grew up, or the boxed version. It’s the ultimate comfort food, don’t you think? Of course you do. Silly question.
Forget about the boxed stuff full of who-knows-what when homemade mac n cheese is this easy. Making it from semi-scratch (if only made the pasta shapes ha!) will have you hooked on how easy and satisfying it is. I will admit I was surprised at how much I ate when I first made it, considering I am not a mac n cheese fan but my goodness is it good. Comfort food at it’s best and get this, you can freeze a family-sized portion then easily thaw and bake so double up the recipe. Trust me.
Additional photos added May 2016.
When I developed this recipe, as an experimental dinner (a new recipe off the top of my head) to fulfill our comfort food craving I was quite hesitant; after all, they do come hungry to the dinner table. I didn’t want to disappoint given my boys expressed disappointment about giving up mac n cheese since changing our dietary lifestyle. I felt a pang of guilt that one of their favorite foods had to be compromised.
That is until everyone dug into their plates – the verdict was in. Everyone went silent, attacking their bowls with a missed vengeance. I knew we had a keeper. Glad I wrote the recipe down with many notes I thought.
I added the breadcrumbs for texture, wasn’t sure if they would like that and they do so it stays in the recipe but can easily leave it out if you like to keep it all cheesy and creamy. Be sure not to leave out the garlic powder, it doesn’t impart garlicky flavor rather it’s there to enhance the cheese flavor, mimicking the dairy and wheat version. The hint of cayenne brings another flavor element to the recipe, not enough to say oh there’s cayenne in here but enough to say oh what a rich flavored cheese sauce this is.
Everyone is thrilled with having a new (allergen-free) of this favorite. My oldest son is now requesting this for his birthday dinner, but that changes every week based on his new favorite. My dear captive audience melts my heart.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about all the coconut milk – there isn’t any coconut flavor from the milk. It does not come across at all. I wouldn’t do that to you or us. We love the texture of a breadcrumb topping on our mac n cheese; if you prefer to keep it all cheesy and creamy simply leave out, as desired. Enjoy!
- For the pasta:
- 1 pound pasta shells, elbows or spirals (I use Andean Dream or Tinkyada brands for best results)
- 6 Quarts of water (for cooking pasta)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- For the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons Earth Balance Soy Free Spread, or oil
- 2 cups unflavored coconut milk (not canned)
- ½ cup coconut creamer (I use So Delicious Original flavor)
- 2 heaping cups Daiya cheddar cheese shreds
- 1 heaping cup Daiya mozzarella cheese shreds
- 3 slices GF, DF bread (GF Vegan bread), toasted
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons organic cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons water, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Oil for greasing casserole dish
- Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
- Grease a 9×12 inch oven-safe casserole dish with oil.
- In a mini food processor pulse the bread until it resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
- For the pasta: Fill a stock pot with water, when it reaches a boil add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water (be careful it will boil violently when adding salt).
- Add pasta, stirring frequently to prevent clumping. Cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Let it sit in the water a minute then drain.
- Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Then using a large liquid measuring cup, measure coconut milk, coconut creamer, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground cayenne and set aside for the sauce.
- For the sauce:
- Set a medium (4-quart)
heavy bottomedsaucepan over medium-high heat and heat Earth Balance spread.
- When melted pour in coconut milk mixture stirring to combine well. When the mixture begins to boil then add cornstarch (or tapioca) mixture to the sauce. Whisk or stir vigorously for a minute or two until it comes back up to a bowl, reduce heat to
medium-low. Add in both Daiya mozzarella and cheddar shreds, stirring frequently until well blended (less than a minute). When thickened to coat a spoon it's ready for the pasta.
- Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix until well blended. Fill greased casserole baking dish with mac n cheese, spreading evenly. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over the mac n cheese and bake for
- -15 minutes until golden brown on top. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving, it will be piping hot otherwise. Stores well, refrigerated, for up to 5 days in a sealed container.
- Note for freezing:
- Do not bake the mac n cheese. Instead, let it cool completely (at least 2 hours) then seal with a four-ply of plastic wrap around the total perimeter of the baking dish (not just to cover the top).
- If doubling the recipe (what I do): cool completely, then divide and transfer two portions into freezer-safe and oven-safe dishes or into freezer-safe containers to remove and transfer thawed mac n cheese into oven-safe baking dishes when ready to bake. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, if thawed at room temperature otherwise add 10 minutes if thawed in the refrigerator until hot and bubbling. Let it cool 10 minutes, before serving.
- This recipe is very versatile and does well with the addition of vegetables. Peas, steamed cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, sliced mushrooms or kale (sauteed first) are all delicious optional additions.
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