Classic mac and cheese, made with or without bacon and baked casserole-style in the oven to creamy, crispy perfection. This is our family's go-to gluten free meal when everyone's hungry and the cupboards are nearly bare!
This is it. The meal that I make for my family once a week, every single week. I have been making it since the beginning of time, or so it seems, and although there's been a riff here and there, this is the classic mac and cheese I always return to.
Casserole-style mac and cheese is made with eggs, always. That's what makes it casserole-style. If you need an egg-free gluten free mac and cheese, go with my stovetop version. That's my personal favorite mac and cheese recipe, since I love the creamy cheese sauce—plus the fact that there's no oven involved. But my children? No contest.
Serve this with a quick house-style salad, and you've got a complete meal. It also works beautifully as a make-ahead meal. Either prepare the entire dish through step 3 (right before baking it). Once the cooked pasta is completely cool, cover the dish tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or in the freezer for longer.
You can even bake it right from being frozen. Just lower the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes before uncovering it and continuing to bake. I often throw this together early in the morning and then let it sit in the refrigerator until close to dinnertime. Then, all I have to do is bake and serve. Perfect for busy evenings!
Of course, you do not have to make it with bacon. Most often, I do not make it with bacon. But I can't resist going all-out every once in a while. There was an amazing restaurant that we went to in Boston last year that has an extensive gluten free menu—including bacon mac and cheese cooked in miniature cast iron skillets. It was so dreamy.
I have tried a number of riffs on this recipe over the years (replacing some of the cheese with roasted butternut squash puree, replacing some of the butter with sour cream or cream cheese, using more eggs, fewer eggs, using whole milk or even cream in place of evaporated milk). My family wants to kill me, though.
This is the dish that my children will beg me to make when they're grown and come home to visit. It's warm and comforting, and it tastes and smells like home. Everyone loves a classic!
Classic Mac and Cheese
4 ounces (about 4 strips) thick-cut smoked bacon, diced*
1 pound (16 ounces) dried gluten free elbow pasta (my favorite brand is Barilla)
Up to 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1 teaspoon if you are not using bacon)
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
4 eggs at room temperature, beaten
12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)
*You can leave out the bacon entirely. Just use the full 6 tablespoons of melted butter rather than a combination of melted butter and bacon grease.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish and set it aside.
In a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until browned and crispy (about 5 minutes). Remove the cooked bacon from the saucepan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain off the rendered bacon grease and set it aside.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to an al dente texture (for Barilla elbows, I cook them for 5 minutes flat). Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add a total of 6 tablespoons (84 g) of fat (melted butter, rendered bacon grease or a combination of the two) and the salt to the cooked pasta, and toss gently to coat. Add the evaporated milk and mix gently to combine. Add the eggs and about 10 ounces of the grated cheese and the bacon pieces, and mix gently to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining shredded cheese evenly over the top.
Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the mac and cheese feels firm to the touch when pressed gently in the center, about another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before sprinkling with the optional chopped parsley, and serving warm.
Adapted from Macaroni & Cheese on page 149 of Gluten Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap.
Joy Marie says
Planning to make this tomorrow or Monday; starting to crave pasta. P.S. Made your pierogi dough yesterday. Very soft, delicate without tearing, and pliable. I recommend it.
Jennifer S. says
yay!! love mac-n-cheese
My family liked it except my daughter, the one who actually needs to be gluten free, lol! She picked out all the bacon though. She didn’t find it cheesy enough, even though I added more cheese than I should have. I guess she was thinking it should be more like the Kraft Dinner we used to eat. Oh well, lots of left overs!!
Nicole Hunn says
This is a casserole-style mac and cheese, ygirl. If you’re looking for a mac and cheese recipe that is similar to Kraft from the blue box, try my stovetop version, as referenced in the post.
Christine Tufo says
Can you substitute something for the eggs and have it come out?
Nicole Hunn says
Christine, please see the post for a reference to the stovetop version, which is egg-free.
Heather G says
Haven’t found GF elbows yet, but will have to check another store that carries Barilla. Love Mac ‘n Cheese. Hubbie is beginning to like my (your – LOL) dishes, so maybe I’ll soon only have to make 1 dinner for us…all the time. Thanks again!
Nicole Hunn says
That’s the best, Heather, when everyone eats one dish. I think I’d lose it regularly if they didn’t! I also order Barilla online, by the way.
Heather G says
When you look…you shall find. LOL. I found tons, ok maybe not tons since pasta doesn’t weigh that much, of GF Barilla pasta in a local store. Hmm…never saw it before. Also, FYI, made the GF brownies and my parents, niece and husband thot they were delicious (visiting my parents for a week and my niece stopped by). Thank you for keeping awesome flavor in GF dishes.
Thank you for all the yummies. Celiac sucks and I HATE cooking. You have made it easier and tastier for me and I am very grateful. Seriously girl, thank you so very, very much. Major appreciation from my fam as well.
Nicole Hunn says
This really made me laugh, Leighann! Even though I cook and bake for a living, I get it. So glad I could help! ?