Macaroni and Cheese: Keep the Creamy, Cut the Fat!

macaroni-cheeseEvery so often, a challenge comes up that I cannot resist. A client requested macaroni and cheese, a delicious dish I know well how to do from scratch, but one with which I was never quite satisfied. Yes, it was wonderful fresh, but upon refrigeration and reheating went from creamy deliciousness to clumpy mediocrity. Still tasty, but not something to write home about. Little did I know that the solution to the problem would result in a recipe that makes creamier sauce, contains all natural ingredients AND is lower in fat!

I decided to go all out to find a solution–as they say, getting there is half the fun! I figured there were two possibilities: either the sauce was separating (the oil/water/solid components were no longer smoothly blended), or the pasta was soaking up the liquid portion thereby drying out the sauce. Would it help to undercook the noodles? Coat them with a little oil? Use a different cheese sauce recipe? I could feel an experiment coming on!

After some internet research, I settled on three cheese sauce recipes and four different noodle preparations to try. To parse out the best recipe, I wanted to try all twelve possible combinations. How convenient that a muffin tin has twelve cups! I made two trays so I could refrigerate one and freeze the other: no stone left unturned!

IMG_5118 Noodle Samples

Next step: I made the three different cheese sauce recipes . . .

IMG_5149 Cheese Sauce

Poured and stored . . .

IMG_5185 Cheese Pour

And finally, reheated and performed a taste test.

IMG_5162 Taste Test

The result? I found it all hinged on the starch that was used to thicken the sauce. I had always used white flour, the classic thickener for roux based sauces. However, it turns out that rice starch from sticky rice (the kind you get at Japanese restaurants) is far superior. It has greater thickening power, so you use half as much fat in the roux. Plus, it has great freeze/thaw stability. And to top it off, it’s readily available at your local natural food store!

Here it is, Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour. And please do not substitute regular rice flour–the difference in the molecular structure of the starch makes it or breaks it!

B61679_large-450x450 Sweet White Rice Flour Pic

Macaroni with Creamy Cheese Sauce

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

2 quarts water
2-1/2 teaspoon salt (divided use)
1-1/2 cups dry macaroni pasta
1-1/2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoon Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1-1/2 cups 1% or 2% milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a large pot over high heat, bring water and two teaspoons of salt to a boil, reserving 1/2 teaspoon salt for the sauce. Add dry macaroni to the pot and cook al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add sweet white rice flour, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and ground white pepper and stir gently until bubbly, less than a minute. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. When milk is incorporated, continue to heat, whisking frequently, until sauce is thickened and smooth. Remove from heat, add grated cheese and stir until smooth.

Pour sauce over cooked macaroni and serve immediately, or store in refrigerator or freezer for later use.

I HOPE YOU LOVE THIS RECIPE! I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS BELOW.

And remember, Cooking Good can help you with YOUR recipe development idea! Contact Chef Bev today!


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