Being a kid is awesome. You wait for everyone else to feed you and quite honestly, it doesn't really matter what you eat. You're growing so much your metabolism can keep up with almost anything you give it (within reason, of course).
When I think of kid-friendly meals, I think of dino chicken nuggets, carrot sticks, and stovetop mac and cheese. Funny enough, I didn't really like any of those foods growing up, but I can appreciate why kids love them so much!
I've also never been much of a cheese person until the last few years. The dish needs to be prepared well and have other flavors and textures besides cheese. I think cheese should be treated as an ingredient rather than the main dish, if that makes sense. I like things with cheese, not cheese with things.
My first successful attempt at this concept was my version of stovetop mac and cheese. The pasta isn't swimming in cheese; rather, it's been tossed in a spicy cheese sauce. Since then, I've written recipes for classic side dishes like Funeral Potatoes, Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, and even homemade Alfredo!
The process is quite simple! All you need is cooked noodles, a 10 minute homemade cheese sauce, and some toasted breadcrumbs. This baked macaroni and cheese is easy, foolproof, and totally from scratch!
Start by preparing your noodles according to package instructions. Be sure to save some of that pasta water to help make your cheese sauce extra creamy!
You'll also need to prepare the breadcrumbs. I love making homemade breadcrumbs because I can use 100% whole grain bread and add whatever else I want, like this Everything But the Bagel seasoning, grated cheese, and fresh herbs. All you have to do is toast the bread in the toaster, then pulse with the remaining ingredients. See the pictures below!
Now for the homemade cheese sauce. Any made-from-scratch cheese sauce starts with a roux made from melted butter and flour. To learn more about making a roux, check out this helpful blog post!
This cheese sauce is definitely healthier than other mac and cheese recipes, but don't let that fool you. The rich, creamy, cheesy flavor of this homemade baked mac and cheese is, quite literally, out of this world. You'd never know it's healthier!
After making the roux, stir in the milk, cheeses, and seasonings. Allow the sauce to thicken, then toss the cook noodles in the warm sauce. Add in a tablespoon of pasta water at a time until your mac and cheese is just how you like it.
Note: I recommend using at least three tablespoons of pasta water because refrigerating the leftovers will cause the cheese sauce to thicken too much. The thinner the sauce is before baking, the better your leftovers will be! Your mac and cheese will also be extra creamy when it comes out of the oven.
Finally, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is crispy and the cheese is bubbling out of the sides!
Every bite has the creamy, cheesy flavor you know and love with much less calories. This means you can have more mac and cheese without the guilt! It's also sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs rather than store-bought breadcrumbs, which adds more flavor and nutrition to the dish. Lastly, this homemade baked mac and cheese makes 8 hearty servings, so it's perfect for family dinners, meal prep, or sharing at a big potluck.
Because the cheese sauce is made from a roux that has been thickened on low heat, any excess liquid will have evaporated, so use pasta water to thin the sauce and add back in some moisture to the pasta. This will also keep your mac and cheese cheesier after refrigeration.
Yes you can! Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta (this is my favorite brand!) and gluten-free bread for the breadcrumbs.
Store in an air tight container like this one for up to four days in the refrigerator. To reheat, add a splash of milk to your serving and reheat in the microwave until warm.
I have not tried freezing my mac and cheese, but if you try it, be sure to freeze in individual servings first. Please leave a comment below if you find success with freezing your homemade baked mac and cheese!
I hope you love this healthier version of homemade baked mac and cheese! My husband, who has never liked mac and cheese, said it was "actually really good" so I think I did it!
Be sure to leave a star rating and review in the comments below after you make this mac and cheese! It helps other readers and myself know how you liked the recipe. You can also tag me on Instagram - I love seeing my food in your home!
This is the only homemade baked mac and cheese recipe you'll ever need! It has an easy creamy sauce and crispy breadcrumbs on top. Made with low fat cheese, almond milk, and nutritional yeast, it's also secretly healthy and kid friendly.
*I like adding the pasta back into the empty pasta pot to save dishes!
**I usually use between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup pasta water during this step. Note that the mac and cheese will become much thicker after refrigeration, so the thinner the sauce is before baking, the better the leftovers will be.
Nutrition facts are a calculated estimate of 1/8 of the prepared pan of baked mac and cheese, including the breadcrumbs.
Calories: 342 / Fat: 7.8g / Saturated Fat: 3g / Sodium: 235mg / Carbohydrates: 50.4g / Fiber: 3.1g / Sugar: 2.3g / Protein: 15.8g
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