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The Ultimate Comfort Food: Mac & Cheese Casserole (gluten-filled, gluten-free, and keto)


There is nothing like a delicious, gooey, cheesy Mac & Cheese Casserole. I don’t make this very often. My diet typically consists of meats paired with vegetables. This usual pairing doesn’t just make keto spin-off dishes easy for Maggie, it is how we typically eat, even before keto.


When making Mac & Cheese Casserole, there are a few definite things that I opt to do for improved taste and texture.

  1. I grate my own cheese. Unless I’m on a time-crunch (and I don’t make this dish if I am), I will grate cheese myself. Pre-grated cheese uses anti-caking ingredients which prevents sticking, but also prevents the cheese from melting evenly. If you were to do a side-by-side taste test, the block cheese sauce will have a smoother consistency.

  2. When I make my cheese sauce, I use whole milk and a splash of heavy whipping cream. If I’m going all in for decadent comfort food, the fat makes it not only delicious, but improves the texture of the sauce.

  3. I add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard and a pinch of nutmeg. The mustard adds a delicious flavor to the sauce and nutmeg, although only a pinch, adds a certain warmth to the final dish.

Modifying the Mac & Cheese Casserole to a gluten-free version is super easy. Instead of wheat flour, use gluten-free flour. Instead of using gluten-filled macaroni, use gluten-free macaroni. To me, these are duh modifications and require nothing more than reading box labels at the grocery story.


Maggie’s modification for a keto Mac & Cheese requires a little more effort.


For example, whether dried pasta is gluten-filled or gluten-free, the overall carb content is far too high for a Maggie recipe. She can have a modified cheese sauce (without flour), but she needs something bulky to mix in. Keto friendly options include keto miracle noodles and other keto “pastas.” We’ve tried these and, honestly, no one in the family likes them including Maggie. They may work for the carb content, but they have a slimy texture and strange aftertaste. Instead, we will spiralize zucchini as a pasta substitute. A spiralizer is a great investment for any family modifying recipes for their keto child.

For Maggie keto recipes, step one is always logging into Keto Diet Calculator.

Maggie’s Mac & Cheese Zoodles can be served straight from the pan, but it could also be poured into a cupcake tin and baked. Extra servings could be frozen and enjoyed at another time. I also add bacon to Maggie’s to increase the protein ratio. I could add bacon to the family Mac & Cheese Casserole, but I think it’s plenty decadent as it stands.


The large zucchini I used spiralized into 317 grams. This means I can make ten servings of Mac & Cheese Zoodles in the muffin tin. The remaining 17 grams, I finely chopped and added to the family Mac & Cheese Casserole, simply to not waste food.

Mama V’s Mac & Cheese Casserole


Ingredients:

1 box (gluten-free) macaroni pasta

16 ounce block cheddar cheese (do not use pre-shredded cheese)

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup (gluten-free) flour

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp ground mustard

A dash ground nutmeg (or a stroke of whole nutmeg using a fine grater)

Optional add-ins: (gluten free) bread crumbs, bacon, ground beef, green peas, broccoli, or anything else you want.

Directions:

1. Shred the entire block of cheese and set aside. Pull out the amount of shredded cheese needed for Maggie’s Mac & Cheese Zoodles, then leave the rest aside. (If you are making multiple servings of Mac & Cheese Zoodles in addition to the Mac & Cheese Casserole, you may want to shred additional cheese.

2. Boil water in a large pot. Make macaroni pasta according to package directions.


3. In a measuring cup, have ready 2 cups of whole milk and 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream. Stir the milk and cream.


4. Using medium-low heat, in a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, add the flour and whisk until a light brown roux is formed.


5. SLOWLY, stream in the milk while whisking. Make sure the milk is absorbed in the roux before pouring more. The consistency and thickness of the sauce will be affected by your patience in this step.


6. Once all of the milk is in the saucepan, continue to whisk while slowly adding the grated cheese. The sauce should thicken. I used 3 cups in the sauce. Reserve 1/4 cup of grated cheese for later.


7. Add 1/2 tsp ground mustard, a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste) into the cheese sauce. (Don’t be shy with tasting the cheese sauce at this stage. It annoys my husband, but I don’t typically measure most spices including salt and pepper. The cheese is naturally salty so be mindful while adjusting your seasoning. If you want to add a spicy kick, sprinkle in cayenne pepper).

8. After draining the macaroni, put back into the pot. Pour the cheese sauce and using a wooden spoon, stir until all of the pasta is coated. Again, taste the macaroni in the cheese sauce. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Also, if you wanted to add optional fixings like bacon or vegetables, this is the time to do it.


9. Technically, the macaroni and cheese is done. If you want stovetop, you could serve now. If you want it baked, continue reading below.


10. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish. I prefer my 9 x 13 Pyrex for this dish. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheddar cheese. Normally, I don’t add bread crumbs, but I had leftovers from the Pecan Crusted Chicken so I sprinkled some on top as well.


11. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.


Maggie’s Keto Mac & Cheese Zoodles:


Ingredients (per individual serving):

25 grams heavy whipping cream (36%)

30 grams zucchini (spiralized into noodles with skin on)

5 grams cooked bacon

11 grams cheddar

19 grams butter


Directions:

1. Spiralize zucchini. I chose the fetuccini blade, but you can use whichever shape you prefer.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan. Slowly whisk heavy cream and cheese until incorporated.


3. Mix zucchini “noodles” and cooked bacon with cheese. Allow zucchini to cook for 2 minutes in the cheese sauce.

4. (Optional) Pour individual servings into a muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. If freezing, allow to cool completely before storing.

As official taste tester, Hazel approved! I hope you enjoy making these recipes for your family.


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