Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Big Pan of Pasta

Two of my nieces mentioned “grown-up mac n cheese” on Facebook in the last few weeks and after the second mention, I wanted to know what it was.  I knew what it wasn’t: little elbow pasta with some milk, some butter and some orange powder.

They both wrote that it was put together with whatever looks good.  For example: Leah recently made it with aged Gouda and chanterelles.  Miriam mentioned Gruyere, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.  Yum!

I decided on some guidelines for my own version: I would use an interesting shape of pasta, pick out some really good cheese (not the conveniently grated stuff – this is the time to grate your own), put in some vegetables and why not add some sausage?  I grocery shopped before I got Miriam’s recipe with bacon as an ingredient.  The only thing about that is that I think bacon can become soft in a casserole.  But maybe if I put the bacon on top I can get good bacon flavor and keep the bacon crispy. This time I made it with sausage.

In the meantime, this is the recipe I adapted from Miriam Faw who adapted it from Alton Brown.  Use it as a springboard to make your own version of Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. Or if your a purist who thinks adding anything much past macaroni and cheddar cheese to a pan of Mac & Cheese is wrong, call it “Baked Pasta”.  Because it’s really yummy and worth making.

Mac & Cheese Ingrediments

Miriam’s recipe called for 8 oz. of pasta but I decided to make a pound of pasta so that Rem and I could each have our own version (mine has cauliflower and mushrooms), so keep in mind my pictures show a larger batch of pasta.  I’m writing out the recipe for one 2-quart casserole.

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese


8 oz. pasta (I used campanelle pasta, little bells, that I think look like little trumpets, but how about rotelle or wagon wheels? Or try some cavatappi pasta – ridged, corkscrew shapes)

2-3 cups greens such as spinach, kale and/or chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 large egg

12 ounces cheese, combination such as smoked Gouda, Jarlsberg, Gruyere, and Parmesan, shredded

1/2 teaspoon paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.  When it is nearly done, drop the greens in with the pasta.  They just need a minute or two.  Drain the pasta with the greens.

Pasta with Greens

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the sausage.

Browning Sausage

Remove when done, leave the grease in the pan and sauté onions a few minutes, then add cauliflower and sauté a few minutes more, then add mushrooms and garlic and saute until everything is tender and cauliflower is golden brown.

Sliced Mushrooms

(Note: I roasted the cauliflower in the oven because I intended to use half in this recipe and have half for snacking on.  If you want to go that route, put the cauliflower florets on an oiled backing sheet and bake in a 400 oven for about 25 minutes until it looks kind of toasty and is tender.  Another options is to drop the cauliflower into the boiling pasta pot a few minutes before the greens)
Roasted Cauliflower

Remove all veggies from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and melt the butter in it, over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add Flour to Butter

Stir in the milk and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in some of the hot bechamel to temper it.  Stir this mixture into remaining sauce in pan.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Grated Cheese

Cheese into Sauce

Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Before baking

If desired, combine panko crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.

 Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Closer Mac & Cheese

The days are shorter and even though we’ve been having sunny weather, it is colder at night and this delicious pasta will provide all the warmth and comfort of the macaroni and cheese of your youth.

Pear Candles

I’ve heard that my other niece, Caitlin, also prepares an awesome mac and cheese, so maybe I’ll try her recipe another time.

Pasta and Salad

Speaking of awesome recipes, I’m so proud of Miriam!  She entered a cooking contest on The Sam Livecast which is a cross between a radio talk show and a TV cooking show, filmed in Sam’s home in San Diego.  The whole family was thrilled when she was picked to cook her recipe, Lamb and Feta Burgers, on the show.

The eight contestants were paired up and they did an episode with each pair.  I don’t know how many entries they had for the contest, “Cook Your Way to Kauai”, but Miriam got on and you can see the episode here!  At the end of all the rounds, the winner will earn a trip, along with a guest, to Kauai with the Sam Livecast team.

OK, you should still watch the episode, but she WON her first round and went to the semi-finals. In this round they had to feature eggs and Miriam only knew two days ahead of time.  She prepared giant ravioli (made from won ton wrappers), stuffed with a ricotta, herbed goat cheese, Parmesan and raw egg yolk (it cooks just enough while the pasta is cooking) with a brown butter, bacon and sage sauce. She practiced her recipe all of ONE TIME before cooking it ON CAMERA on the show.  Did I mention they have 30 minutes to fix their dish? Whew.  Watch her semi-final here.

Have you watched it yet?  Because she won that round too!  For the Grand Finale, still in only 30 minutes, they had to feature fish and pineapple, no shellfish and no stir fry.  Miriam prepared Goat Cheese Crusted Halibut and Pineapple-Cilantro Risotto. Watch the final here to see if she won.

I have not yet tried any of these delicious looking and sounding dishes, but here is a link with all the finalists recipes for you to try yourself.

Thank you for stopping by.


Filed under Cooking

5 responses to “Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

  1. “Grown up Mac/Cheese”…I like that!…but, my niece has Our favorite down pat…and is asked to bring to every occasion…

  2. Pingback: Birthday Recipes | dianne faw

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