2 of the Best Ever Mac & Cheese Recipes (one vegan, one not, both perfect for a crowd)

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If you’re going to indulge in mac & cheese, here are 2 ways to do it right.

The first has been my go-to recipe for entertaining (here’s the original post on my blog). It’s simple to make, doesn’t require a roux (flour and water mixture to thicken the sauce) and is almost completely hands off. People beg for this recipe year after year.

The second recipe is a plant-based version of my original – completely dairy-free, vegan, and even easier to make. It only takes 5 minutes to prep. And this version will convince the most skeptical of non-vegans to taste and LOVE dairy-free mac and cheese. Multiple people have texted me with the following 2 words after trying this recipe: “mind blown”.

So which will you try first? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

The Original Go-To Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times January 4, 2006

makes 6-8 servings (I usually double this recipe for parties)

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (small curd, not lowfat)
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon dry mustard (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated (recommend Cabot)
3/4 pound elbow pasta, uncooked (recommend the elbows with the ridges; brown rice elbow pasta works too if you want to make it gluten-free)

Directions:
Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan and set aside.

In a food processor, add cottage cheese, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper and pulse a few times. Then add milk and puree until smooth. Note: the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dry mustard, but I usually add a lot more. I like how the mustard gives the sauce an extra bite. Taste it before incorporating it into the pasta to see if it’s to your liking – I usually know it’s right when I can taste and smell the spices, not just the milk. I omit the mustard when making this recipe for lots of kids.

Reserve 1/2 cup of grated cheese for topping. Add uncooked pasta to greased pan, then pour cottage cheese and milk sauce over top. Add remaining grated cheese and mix to combine. Press down with spatula to flatten and ensure pasta is completely submerged in the sauce. (The original recipe called for 1/2 pound of pasta, but I usually add about 3/4 of the 1lb box so it isn’t too watery).

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese, and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. (It may look really soupy at this point, but it will all come together in the last half hour). Bake uncovered 30 minutes more until browned and delicious on top. Let cool about 15 minutes before serving (if you can stand the wait).

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The Dairy-Free / Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe

makes 6-8 servings (I usually double this recipe for parties)

1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (not the light variety, the kind with the cream top – I use Native Forest brand)
2 cups plant-based milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 8 oz packages Daiya Cheddar Cheese Style Shreds
1 pound elbow pasta, uncooked (recommend the elbows with the ridges; brown rice elbow pasta works too if you want to make it gluten-free)

Directions:
Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, add coconut milk, plant-based milk, cayenne, salt & pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour into 9×13 casserole dish (I didn’t need to grease the baking dish when testing the recipe, but feel free to spray with a bit of coconut oil). Top with elbow pasta followed by the Daiya cheddar. Stir well to combine.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover pan, stir gently, and bake uncovered 30 minutes more until browned and delicious on top. Let cool about 15 minutes before serving (if you can stand the wait). Serve warm.

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