Hi, vegetarian carnivores! Macaroni and cheese is an incredible vegetarian comfort food, and can be made as complicated and fancy as you like. A lot of people are still eating packaged macaroni and cheese, because cooking it from scratch seems daunting to them, but that does not have to be the case! And while you can totally put in a ton of time cooking up the perfect macaroni and cheese, I personally have a little less patience. I try to take the most delicious recipes and find ways to make them accessible and easy to make for you guys. We are going to whip up a fool proof 4 cheese macaroni and cheese. It is ooey gooey yumminess with minimal effort. Just the way I like it, and I know you guys will too!
Today I am going to show you a deceptively fancy macaroni and cheese recipe. Your friends and taste buds will not be able to tell that this is not made by a professional chef. The creaminess of the sauce contrasts really well with a toasted and baked Panko layer and is sure to be a hit at any potluck or other event. And the best part? It refrigerates really well for up to 5 days so you can use it as meal prep for work and make a giant batch to share with your friends.
I have a confession
Yeah, so. I used to eat boxed mac and cheese. Like, all the time. I know, just the idea of it kind of grosses me out at this point. Depends on the brand, but I still kind of like Annie’s. Anyway, my point is that you literally have zero excuse for ever having boxed mac and cheese again. And this is sort of like a personal guarantee from me that you will be able to whip this mac and cheese up so easily and it will taste so much better than plastic cheese.
And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you know exactly what you are eating. It is important to know what you are putting in your body, so you can look and feel your best. And that can be really hard to do if you are not the one making the food you eat. So, no “artificial colors or flavors” and absolutely no preservatives. You will notice that I have not added any salt to the recipe, and this is because cheese already carries quite a bit of it and I didn’t feel the need for it. If you need to add some, just make sure to do it at the end so you don’t miscalculate and add too much.
It is really simple
My formula for traditional mac and cheese is the same: a quick bechamel sauce as the base, and then melt in all your cheeses. Vary the cheeses, vary the flavor. In this recipe, I have made a white version with milder cheeses, so if you are in the mood for sharp cheddar etc go for it! I will add a post with my favorite cheese combinations for different recipes soon as well. Maybe add some smoked paprika if you like the flavor (I know I do!) or maybe some chili flakes for a spicy kick (also a great choice!). If you are feeling fancy and have the time, toast some Panko and bake it off. It is really what you make of it!
It is also a great recipe for all the cheese that you definitely have lying around in your fridge. I know I tend to have bits and pieces of different cheeses almost all the time. This recipe works like a charm for reducing waste and using all our ingredients before they go bad!
- 2 cups dry shell, or any short pasta
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 tsp oil
- 3 tbs all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk, divided
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup mild cheddar, grated
- 1/2 cup Gruyere, grated
- 1/2 cup Swiss, grated
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 cup Panko
- Cook the pasta according to instructions.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large saucepan, melt your butter and oil and add in your flour and stir with a spatula until thick with no lumps.
- While whisking or stirring, gradually add in 2 cups of milk and keep whisking until well combined.
- Whisk in your heavy cream.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and keep stirring until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spatula.
- At this point, you may find that your mixture is really thick. This was the case for me, so I just added in another cup of milk gradually until the mixture loosened out.
- Now that your bechamel is ready, you are free to add in your cheeses! Again, do it gradually, and keep stirring to melt them in continuously.
- And now that your cheeses are all melted in, go ahead and garnish with paprika or chili flakes or fresh cracked pepper! I used pepper.
- Mix in your pasta directly from the starchy water. You guys know how I feel about pasta water LOL
- Pour the mixture into a baking safe tray.
- In the same saucepan as for the cheese sauce, toast your Panko until golden brown. You can do this using some butter or oil, or you can even dry toast it. It does not really matter.
- Spread the toasted Panko over the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Enjoy it straight out of the oven!
Would you guys just take a look at this beauty?! I know this looks like a lot of steps, but trust me when I say that making the cheese sauce took me only 10 minutes from start to finish! You don’t have to bake off the pasta if you don’t like Panko or if you don’t have the time, but I highly recommend it. This recipe requires so little effort and is totally customizable to whatever cheese you already have in your fridge!