Prep 15 mins
Cook 25 mins
This is the only way my husband will eat macaroni and cheese, a food our 4 year old asks for constantly. It is my take on a mac and cheese I had at a nice bistro on our first date. I serve it 2 ways - extra creamy or baked. If you prefer your mac and cheese baked, reduce the half & half by 1/2 cup and reserve 1/2 cup or so of the cheeses or simply shred some extra. I also cut a minute or so off the pasta cooking time so they don't get mushy when baking. Feel free to add or substitute other veggies (broccoli and tomatoes are especially good) or leave out the sausage for a meatless meal. Leftover Easter ham also works great with this. It is a bit of work because I highly recommend shredding your own cheese from the block as the pre-shredded cheese in a bag has a powder substance on it that can make the sauce grainy.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 2 cups half-and-half cream (I use fat free and it turns out fine)
- 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese, low fat works great, fat free not so much
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 ounces smoked gouda cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 dash nutmeg (optional)
- 1 lb cooked pasta (we prefer elbow, rigatoni, or medium size shells)
- 16 ounces sliced mushrooms, I use a mix of white and brown (baby bellas or cremini)
- 1 (16 ounce) package smoked sausage, cut into coins (I use turkey)
- 1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil
- Sauté mushrooms in a little olive oil until cooked down; set aside.
- Sauté sausage coins in same skillet you used for the mushrooms until warmed through and lightly caramelized; combine with the mushrooms and keep warm.
- In a saucier or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until bubbles subside (you don't want to burn it or create a fully browned butter but want to head that direction for a nuttier taste to the sauce).
- Add flour and cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until flour is fully cooked and mixture has reached a light, golden brown.
- Add 1/4 cup half & half, cream cheese, ground mustard, and pepper. Stir until fully incorporated into the roux.
- Slowly add remaining half & half, whisking constantly to break up any lumps and stir for 1-2 minutes or until you can just notice a slight thickening. This makes a very thin, creamy sauce. If you like it a lot thicker reduce half & half by 1/2 cup.
- Add shredded cheese (either reserve a small amount or shred extra if baking as a casserole) and stir for 1 minute.
- Reduce heat to low and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until cheese has fully melted and flavors incorporate.
- While cheese sauce is cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.
- There are 2 serving options:.
- Most of the time I simply combine pasta, cheese sauce, mushrooms, and sausage in a large serving bowl and eat it extra creamy.
- My husband prefers it baked. Combine all components in the pasta pot and then pour into a greased baking dish. Top with reserved/extra cheese and some breadcrumbs (if desired - we don't) and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
This was so good! I had to sub out sharp yellow cheddar for the sharp white cheddar because of our grocery budget and the white cheddar being a whopping $8.49 for 4 ounces and I used Whole Wheat Elbow Macaroni as that's what I always use, but besides that I followed the rest of the ingredients precisely. I opted not to bake ours because it's been a long day and I just wanted to get dinner on the table quickly and we didn't think it needed the baking time. I served this with broccoli and cauliflower on the side and all 5 of us really liked it. It says "Grown-Up", but don't let that shy you away from it if you have children, because this was very family friendly. Thank you for a great comfort food meal tonight Baking Barb. Made for PAC Spring 2014.