A Cozy Pasta: “Grown-Up’s” Mac n’ Cheese, For The Grown-Up Kid In All Of Us

"Grown-Up's" Mac n' Cheese

I’m not going to come right out and divulge my age, of course, but let’s just say that I’m not necessarily a spring chicken anymore. Age is only a number anyway, right? It’s how one feels on the inside that’s important; at least, that’s what they say, whoever “they” may be. And I couldn’t agree with “them” more. But still, according to the combination of numbers that make up my age, numbers that fall somewhere between twenty and forty, I can’t escape the fact that I’m officially an adult now, a “grown-up”, and have been for quite some time. But what is being a “grown-up” supposed to feel like, anyway? Is it only the addition of responsibilities and check-lists? Is it merely a lot more work and a lot less play? Does it mean that because maturity and wisdom become expected, that joy, curiosity and a whimsical spirit now must be neatly folded up and tucked away for the rest of our allotted time? Certainly, it can’t; and I don’t believe it’s meant to be. Because to me, “growing up” just simply seems to imply an addition of something and not a taking away. I like to think of the process of becoming an adult, a grown-up, as just building upon those precious, innocent, loving and naturally inquisitive qualities innate in childhood, and guarding them closely, so that they may always inform all of the experiences that the years of life end up bringing. Those qualities were never meant to be discounted or abandoned; rather, cherished and held dear.

"Grown-Up's" Mac n' Cheese

When I was a kid, I remember my friends telling me that I seemed like an “old soul”. What’s ironic to me now is that the older I get, the younger at heart I seem to feel, and the more prone to silliness, zaniness and curiosity I seem to be. Go figure. Perhaps it’s the “Benjamin Button” effect, only I don’t necessarily begin to look and feel younger physically (I wish), I just feel younger in spirit, somehow. And truth be told, I wouldn’t mind being a bit more “child-like”—more loving, more innocent in my way of thinking, more eager to just “let go”—and a bit less jagged around the edges. But I’m working on it. I want to get back to playing with my food, to laughing freely at things that are silly and amusing, to exploring and to being surprised by life. I want to enjoy a huge bowl of mac n’ cheese with abandon like I did when I was a kid; only now, add the extra goodies into it that life has introduced to me, and that I’ve learned that I really like the taste of, to make that mac n’ cheese that much more interesting and dynamic than it was before. What a way life has of building upon itself, layer upon layer, and coming full circle.

"Grown-Up's" Mac n' Cheese

"Grown-Up's" Mac n' Cheese

I really think there’s a child that resides in all of us, just wanting to be acknowledged for still existing. Perhaps it makes itself known every now and then when the guard gets let down, or when there is a moment of stillness, of quiet, and its faint giggles cannot be suppressed. The wonder, love and innocence that was placed in each of us at the point of our beginning can never be fully extinguished; it gently and softly taps at the heart so that it may be remembered and included in who we are today. To feed that child, to nurture it, can only help those of us “grown-ups” to become more complete and more whole; but it starts with remembering, doesn’t it? If chicken soup is for the soul, then mac n’ cheese is for the child within each one of us.

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


"Grown-Up's" Mac n' Cheese

“Grown-Up’s” Mac n’ Cheese with Three Cheeses, Crispy Prosciutto, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Multigrain Pasta, with Panko-Herb Crust
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(Serves about 8)


• Creamy, Three-Cheese Sauce (recipe below)
• Multigrain (or wholegrain) elbow macaroni pasta (14.5 ounces), uncooked
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), julienned
8 ounces sliced Prosciutto, crisped and chopped, divided use (*see note)
¼ cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated jalapeno jack cheese
¼ cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon chives, chopped, for garnish

(*Crisp the Prosciutto slices, in batches, in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until golden-brown and crispy, similar to bacon; chop finely once cool enough to handle.)


-Preheat the oven to 350; lightly butter a large casserole/baking dish.

-Prepare the Creamy, 3-Cheese Sauce; set aside and keep warm.

-Cook the elbow macaroni according to package instructions, and drain well.

-Next, add the cooked elbow macaroni directly into the Creamy, 3-Cheese Sauce, along with the sun-dried tomatoes, and gently stir to combine well; pour about half of the elbow macaroni/cheese sauce/sun-dried tomato mixture into the buttered casserole/baking dish, and then sprinkle over about half of the chopped, crispy prosciutto; next, pour the remainder of the elbow macaroni/cheese sauce/sun-dried tomato mixture into the casserole dish, and sprinkle over the top the ¼ cups of white cheddar, jalapeno jack and Gruyere cheeses, mixing them a bit; next, combine the panko bread crumbs with the olive oil, Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt using your fingers, and sprinkle that mixture evenly over top of the cheeses to form a crust.

-Place the uncovered casserole/baking dish into the oven to bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and gooey, and the breadcrumb topping is golden and crispy; if the breadcrumb topping needs additional browning, just turn the broiler on low, and allow it to crisp up a bit more for a moment or two (don’t walk away from it); to finish the mac n’ cheese, sprinkle the remainder of the chopped, crispy prosciutto over the top, as well as the chopped fresh chives, and serve immediately while hot.

Creamy, Three-Cheese Sauce ingredients:

4 cups low-fat milk
2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon chicken base (I used “Better Than Bouillon” reduced sodium)
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
• Pinch ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter
9 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups, heaping, grated extra sharp white cheddar
1 ½ cups, heaping, grated jalapeno jack cheese
1 ½ cup, heaping, grated Gruyere cheese
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice


-Add the milk, half and half, chicken base, garlic, salt, white pepper and nutmeg into a medium-sized pot, and place over medium heat; bring the mixture to a good simmer, whisk to blend so that all ingredients within are combined, and turn off the heat; keep warm.

-Place a large (preferably non-stick) pot over medium-low heat, and add the butter in; once melted, add in the flour, and stir to combine to form the “roux”, or thickener for the sauce, and allow it to cook for about 1 minute to cook out the raw flour taste; next, slowly pour the hot milk/half and half mixture into the roux, whisking the whole time to avoid lumps from forming; allow the mixture to come to the simmer for about 2-3 minutes, whisking occasionally, to allow the sauce to thicken and tighten up a bit; once thickened, turn the heat off, and add the grated cheeses into the cream sauce, one at a time, whisking very well to blend between each addition of cheese; whisk in the lemon juice; once smooth and blended, cover and keep warm until ready to use, or cool completely, and keep in a covered container in the fridge until ready to use, when it can be re-heated gently.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Jen @TheFithousewife March 14, 2013, 1:31 pm

    Oh my, this looks devine! I think my husband and I would really like this :) I love all the yummy cheeses you’ve used. Thanks for sharing!

    • The Cozy Apron March 14, 2013, 2:48 pm

      Thank you, Jen! I’m sure if you and your hubby are mac ‘n cheese lovers, you’d both enjoy this version – be forewarned though; it is addictive!

  • Love the combination of cheeses you’ve used. Looks like the ultimate comfort food!

  • Kim - Liv Life March 14, 2013, 7:09 pm

    I actually posted a question on my FB page today asking for mac n cheese recipes. I’ve found IT! Yep, the ONE. What you have here is positively breathtaking… gorgeous photos and incredible ingredients perfect for us adults. Though as my age is over that 40 mark, I think that puts you still in the spring-chicken category! (Never fear, the 40’s are the best so far!!)

    • The Cozy Apron March 15, 2013, 6:09 am

      Hey, thanks Kim! And that’s funny about your posting to FB about mac ‘n cheese recipes; I must have subconsciously picked up on your food “vibes”, haha – so glad I could be of service! Please enjoy the recipe!

  • Anastasia March 14, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Beautiful photos!

  • Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen March 15, 2013, 1:16 am

    Yum, your mac and cheese looks so delicious!

  • Sarah March 15, 2013, 8:47 am

    This was so wonderful to read. It is funny that you are talking about being a kid again because just last night I had to make some french toast for dinner. As a family we were always more of french toast people than pancake people(though I love them both). Last night, right as I place the bread in the pan, the smells immediately took me back. The anticipation sitting at the kitchen table, not knowing whether to choose syrup, cinnamon and sugar or powdered sugar, so instead just cutting the pieces up and adding a little bit of everything. The warmth and comfort of being surrounded and protected by the people you love. Ahh.

    Whenever I am with my nephews I get peak into childhood again; the silliness, the love, the freedom . I too love getting back to that feeling, embracing the child inside, but enjoying all the flavors, experiences, and new freedoms life has presented!

    Oh and by the way…that mac looks incredible!! Must. Make. Now.

    Thank you for a wonderful post!

    • The Cozy Apron March 15, 2013, 10:37 am

      Sarah, I appreciate that’ve shared these things with me; I love to read about the various ways that we, as individuals, relate on a certain topic. My husband, son and I often do our “pancake nights” on a Saturday evening (though I think my hubby is itchin’ to do a French toast night, too), so the dilemma we face in regards to that is, blueberry pancakes, or plain? Maple syrup, or blueberry/mixed berry compote? So we usually, like you, do a little of all-of-the-above. It really is best that way, isn’t it? 😉

  • C. Smith September 19, 2013, 8:53 pm

    Your recipe looks wonderful; I really like the combination of cheeses that you have used! I am looking forward to trying this out. I am wondering if you would be able to answer two questions first, though? They are:

    1.) Can chopped bacon bits (from fried bacon strips, not the pre-packaged kind) can be used instead of the prosciutto?

    2.) Can the three cheese sauce recipe be halved?

    Thank you for sharing this recipe.:)

    • The Cozy Apron September 20, 2013, 4:02 pm

      Hi there! Thanks for your questions. Yes, absolutely use the chopped, fried bacon; that would be delicious, and perfectly fine. And of course the sauce can also be halved, especially if you’re looking to feed about 4. I would use about 8 ounces of the elbow macaroni noodles in that case, as well as about half of the rest of the ingredients. Enjoy!

  • Jessica @ Domesticated Wild Child August 24, 2015, 7:27 am

    That looks amazing! I’m a mac and cheese fan and that takes it to another level! Definitely going to make this!

  • Shayne December 22, 2015, 5:02 am

    Is this amazing recipe possible to make ahead?

    • the Cozy Apron December 22, 2015, 4:20 pm

      Hi Shayne, great question! Here’s what I would advise: prepare all of the component parts—cook up the pasta, prepare the sauce, and have those done ahead of time. Then when you’re ready to prepare this, heat up the sauce, gather up the rest of your ingredients (you could even have those prepped and portioned out, as well) and then proceed with the rest of the recipe baking the mac n’ cheese off. I wouldn’t assemble it ahead of time, because the sauce would sort of get “sucked up” or absorbed by the pasta if they sit together too long. But if you prepare these components and have them ready to just assemble and bake, you should be good. :-) Hope that helps you! Please enjoy.

      • Kristy March 25, 2016, 2:50 pm

        I made this for Christmas and it was delicious. However everyone who ate the leftovers agreed that it was even more delicious the second time around.mim currently making it to take to a luncheon tomorrow. I plan on keeping it in the fridge overnight and removing it in the morning so it has some time to come to room temperature then I will reheat it in the afternoon.

        • The Cozy Apron March 28, 2016, 7:13 pm

          Kristy, how fun that you’ve made this a couple of times now! I’m thrilled that it’s being enjoyed; thank you for sharing that with me!

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