I LOVE mac’n’cheese. It’s one of the first things I think to make when I’m hungry. Being lactose intolerant makes eating mac’n’cheese made by anyone else impossible, so I’ve had to learn how to make this dish on my own. Story of my baking career.
It’s taken me many tries to get the perfect thick cheesiness into the sauce, to have the perfect al dente noodle, and to have the perfect cheesy crunch on top. The recipe I’ve arrived at is an amalgamation of many, many different recipes for macaroni and cheese I’ve read and just simple trial and error. I think I’ve finally made my best version, and I’ll now share it with you all on the internet.
This mac and cheese can be made with many variations to suit your dietary needs, or what products you’re able to find at the store. Mine will have a white cheese sauce, as the only cheese I can get that is lactose-free is white. Tonight I used a sharp cheddar, but I’ve made this recipe with gouda, finlandia and swiss cheeses as well and all were good! This time I used half whipping cream treated with Lactaid drops, and half Lactaid skim milk. I’ve used many different varieties of milk that have all turned out well though – the whipping cream just makes things creamier. You could even use soy milk if you wanted. I also used real butter today, because I made my own lactose-free butter the other day from Lactaid treated whipping cream. It made a huge difference in this recipe, however I’ve always used vegan Becel margarine before and it tasted fine too. The biggest difference I noticed was the roux browned much easier and quicker than margarine did.
I hope you enjoy my creation, whether you just like mac’n’cheese or you have a dietary restriction like me!
Bee*s Lactose-Free Holy Macaroni
1 80z pkg elbow macaroni (or whatever noodle you desire – I also enjoy penne, shells and scooby-doo noodles)
2 tbsp lactose-free butter or margarine (so far I’ve only found lactose-free margarine to buy, but I’ve made my own lactose-free butter)
2 tbsp flour
2 cup lactose-free milk
1 tsp dry mustard
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 cups + 1 cup shredded lactose-free cheese
1. Fill a large pot with water and salt and bring to a boil. When water is at a rolling boil, pour in the pasta. Cook to the directions on the pasta package for al dente noodles. Different noodles will take more or less time to cook – my penne today took 6 minutes to reach al dente. Strain pasta when done, but do not rinse noodles. The remaining starch in the water still on the noodles will also help to thicken the sauce.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees on the broil setting.
3. In a small sauce pan, melt the margarine/butter on medium-low heat. When the margarine/butter has melted, whisk in the flour. You want all of the flour to be incorporated into the margarine/butter so it’s a paste – this is called roux and is commonly used to thicken cream sauces. Stirring constantly, cook the roux until a golden brown.
4. When the roux has browned, pour in the 2 cups of milk. Stir the milk and roux mixture until smooth. Add the dry mustard, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne now. Heat this mixture until the milk has thickened, stirring often – about 5 – 10 minutes.
5. When the milk mixture has thickened,remove the bay leaf. Add the shredded lactose-free cheese a handful at a time, stirring constantly. Allow each handful of cheese to melt into the milk mixture before adding the next.
6. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta noodles and stir. You want each noodle to be covered in equal amounts of cheese sauce – this is no time for favoritism. Uniformity is key!
7. Pour the cheese sauce covered noodles into a casserole dish. Cover the noodles with the remaining cheese – a 1/2 cup was only an estimate – use as much cheese for this step as you deem appropriate. You could even create a bread-crumb crust if you’re partial to that.
8. Bake in pre-heated oven until the cheese on top of the casserole is crisp and browned. This should take about 5 – 10 minutes. Most recipes that I’ve read suggest doing this step at a much lower oven temperature, like 350 degrees, and bake for 25 – 40 minutes. I feel this is much too long to wait for Holy Macaroni, so I speed up the waiting time by cooking on broil at a high temperature.
9. When your Holy Macaroni is done to your satisfaction, take it out of the oven. Be careful, because the mac’n’cheese will be very hot. Season further with salt and pepper if you like, and enjoy!