Mac. And. Cheese. “Three words […] Say it and I’m yours.” Chuck Bass should have definitely handed Blair a plate of mac and cheese in that moment to swoop her off her feet (any Gossip Girl fans out there?).
Nothing is more inviting on a chilly day than a plate of mac and cheese. It’s ooey gooey and warms your soul with each bite. But I’m not talking about a chemical and color-laden mac and cheese that comes in a box – that’s right I’m talking about you KD! I’m talking a rich béchamel sauce, healthy brown rice macaroni, beautifully roasted tomatoes, ricotta cheese and more freshly grated cheese, all finished with a breadcrumb topping and drizzled in fresh pesto.
This isn’t a simple “microwave for 90 seconds and voila” recipe – I’ve boycotted the microwave (research about the harmful effect if you’d like). Unlike those KD cups, this mac will take time but it is oh-so worth it, trust me. Real food shouldn’t be ready after a 90 second zap anyways.
In my humble opinion, this recipe will take mac and cheese to A WHOLE NEW LEVEL and you know I don’t joke when it comes to food – okay, okay I love a good food pun though. Puns aside, I take my pasta seriously.
Although I am using ricotta and caciotta cheese here, you may substitute the cheese for a dairy-free alternative to make it vegan. I have included some substitutions at the end of the recipe I believe that anyone can enjoy mac and cheese, no matter their eating lifestyle!
Italian Mac and Cheese (serves 4-5)
- 3 tbsp. avocado oil
- 3 tbsp. brown rice flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk of choice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup mozzarella, grated
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
- 3 cups brown rice macaroni pasta (I LOVE Rizopia)
- 3-4 tbsp. almond flour for the breadcrumb topping
- pesto for serving
- Roast the tomatoes: Place the cherry tomatoes in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt. Roast at 400F degrees for 20 minutes.
- Make the cheese sauce: In a large pot on medium heat, combine the extra virgin olive oil and brown rice flour. Cook it until both ingredients are well incorporated, whisking constantly. Begin adding the milk, 1/4 cup at a time (adding all the milk at once will break the béchamel sauce, preventing it from thickening). Once all the milk is added and you have a creamy white sauce, add the ricotta and caciotta cheese along with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until well combined then remove from heat and keep on the side.
- Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni pasta according to the directions on the bag. Once cooked, strain and place back in the pot.
- Assemble the mac and cheese: Pour the cheese sauce into the macaroni, saving about 3-4 tbsp. to top it with later. Once the cheese sauce and macaroni are well combined, scoop it into a ceramic baking dish along with the roasted cherry tomatoes.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350F degrees. Once baked, top with the extra cheese sauce and almond flour breadcrumb topping. Broil for 5 minutes at 400F degrees or until golden. Top with pesto and serve. Enjoy!
* if you’re not making it gluten-free, you may use:
- white all purpose flour instead of the brown rice flour
- regular breadcrumbs or make your own using your favorite bread
* If you’re making it vegan, use:
- dairy-free milk for the béchamel sauce
- dairy-free cheese like Daiya
- dairy-free pesto