Baked Mac and Cheese Sausage Recipe (An “Off the Rocker” Recipe, with Healthier Option)

Baked mac and cheese can be as comforting as a warm blanket on a cold day.  It can be simple or it can be elegant.  It can be lite or it can be rich.  Mac and cheese has been a long standing staple side dish that has been loved by people of all ages.

This baked mac and cheese recipe is by no means lite and is part of what I like to refer to as my “Off the Rocker” recipe series.  You can read more about my “Off the Rocker” recipes in my “About” page.  In a nutshell my “Off the Rocker” recipes are meant to be insanely rich, crowd pleasing, no holds barred type of recipes.  They are in a sense the Ying that completes my Yang, which would be my healthy recipes.  These recipes are not for the individuals who are diet or health conscious and they are not meant for everyday use but rather for occasional special gatherings.  They stray from my usual use of healthy and no/low processed ingredients.  I do, however, offer up a healthier version at the bottom of each “Off the Rocker” recipe should you wish to make a healthier version.  This recipe has a Lite Baked Mac and Cheese Turkey Recipe which is listed at the bottom of the page.

My baked mac and cheese recipe came about when my husband needed to bring a covered dish to a work related function.  I was looking for a classic dish that everyone would like.  I wanted something that was easy for me to bake and easy for my husband to take.  Baked mac and cheese seemed to easily fit these requirements.

Prepared mac and cheese can be found at any grocery store and in many varieties.  Until I made my own mac and cheese from scratch I was a fan of the prepackaged kind.  I found the prepackaged kind to be quick, easy and fairly inexpensive.  However, after I made my first, from scratch, baked mac and cheese, I knew I would never go back to the prepared kind.  From scratch baked mac and cheese is actually quite easy and quick to make.  Plus when you price out the ingredients it really is close cost comparison wise.

My baked mac and cheese recipe calls for the use of traditional elbow macaroni (though you could use any rolled/tubed pasta shape).  The recipe uses a combination of cheeses to achieve the right flavor and consistency profile.  I went through a long list of cheese combinations.  And while I am personally not a huge fan of processed cheeses, like Velveeta, it does offer a certain benefits to creating a nice crowd pleasing baked mac and cheese dish.  However, should you wish to have a healthier option, please refer to my Lite Baked Mac and Cheese Turkey Recipe at the bottom of this page.

This baked mac and cheese recipe has the addition of crumbled sausage.  The sausage is completely optional (though recommended) and it can be omitted all together to create a vegetarian dish instead.  If you want the flavor of sausage but would like to have the dish be vegetarian than you can substitute the ground sausage for a meatless sausage.  Meatless sausages have come a long way over the years and sometimes I honestly cannot tell the difference.  The type of sausage used in this recipe is a “hot” pork sausage.  If you would rather not have the heat level elevated, a “mild” pork sausage can be used in its place.  I have found the “hot” sausage adds a nice punch to the cheese and is a crowd favorite, however, some cannot tolerate spicy food in which case the “mild” sausage can be used.

In order to achieve a rich, creamy mac and cheese, a combination of whole and half & half milk are used. 100% real butter is also used in this recipe.  For the “Off the Rocker” recipe I suggest keeping with the butter and milk items listed in the recipe.  However, should you wish to make a healthier option, please refer to my Lite Baked Mac and Cheese Turkey Recipe at the bottom of this page.

Since this recipe is intended for a large group, it produces a good amount of servings (8 to 10 depending on serving size).  The recipe can be cut in half or more depending on how much you need for your particular event.

Baked Mac and Cheese Sausage Recipe (An “Off the Rocker” Recipe)  

1 pound of elbow pasta (a standard box of pasta)

1 pound of “hot” pork sausage (or “mild’ sausage, or meatless sausage or omit all together)

20 ounces of Velveeta brand american cheese (about 3/4 of a 32 ounce block)

3 cups of whole milk

1 cup half & half milk

2 sticks of salted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 sleeves of Ritz Crackers (Or any buttery cracker of your choice)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large saucepan crumble and brown the sausage until it is thoroughly cooked.  Once the sausage is cooked, drain the grease from the sausage and set it aside. In a large pot cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.  Drain pasta and set aside.  Cut Velveeta block into small 1″ squares.  Using the same large pot, combine 1 stick of butter, milk (both kinds), 4 ounces of the shredded sharp cheddar cheese and the blocks of Velveeta cheese.  Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure the cheeses melt evenly and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  

Once the cheese mixture becomes a well combined sauce, add the salt, pepper and sausage into the mixture.  Then add the pasta to the sausage cheese mixture and mix well to combine.  Remove mixture from heat and pour into a 9 by 11 casserole dish and set aside.  Place Ritz crackers into a gallon sized plastic bag.  Using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, smash the crackers down to a fine crumble.  In a large bowl melt 1 stick of butter in the microwave (about 40 seconds).  Add the crushed crackers to the melted butter and mix to combine.  Add the rest (4 ounces) of shredded cheddar cheese to the cracker mixture and stir once again to combine.  

Top the mac and cheese with the cracker topping.  Spread and press gently to create an even crumb top.  Place casserole in the preheated oven and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes turn the temperature on the oven up to broil.   Broil the casserole for about 4 minutes or until the top has a nice deep golden crust.  Since the oven is on broil be sure to keep a close eye on the casserole and check frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Using oven mitts remove the casserole from the oven and set on a trivet to cool slightly before serving.   

Baked Mac and Cheese Turkey Recipe (A Lighter Recipe Version)  

1 pound of whole wheat elbow pasta (a standard box of pasta)

1 pound of ground turkey (or meatless ground meat or omit all together)

16 ounces of natural american cheese

2 cups of low fat milk

1 cup coconut milk

4 tablespoons of coconut oil (can use butter instead if you are okay with that) 

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

16 ounces of reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups of brown crispy rice cereal

Coconut spray oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large saucepan crumble and brown the turkey until it is thoroughly cooked.  Once the turkey is cooked, drain the grease from the turkey (if needed) and set it aside. In a large pot cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.  Drain pasta and set aside.  Cut natural american cheese block into small 1″ squares.  Using the same large pot, combine 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, milk (both kinds), 8 ounces of the reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese and the blocks of natural american cheese.  Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure the cheeses melt evenly and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  

Once the cheese mixture becomes a well combined sauce, add the salt, pepper and turkey into the mixture.  Then add the pasta to the turkey cheese mixture and mix well to combine.  Remove mixture from heat and pour into a 9 by 11 casserole dish and set aside.  Place brown crispy rice cereal into a gallon sized plastic bag.  Using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, smash the cereal down to a fine crumble.  In a large bowl, add the rest (8 ounces) of shredded cheddar cheese to the crushed cereal and stir once again to combine.  

Top the mac and cheese with the cereal topping.  Spread and press gently to create an even crumb top.  Spray the crumble layer with a fine mist of coconut spray oil.  Place casserole in the preheated oven and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes turn the temperature on the oven up to broil.   Broil the casserole for about 4 minutes or until the top has a nice deep golden crust.  Since the oven is on broil be sure to keep a close eye on the casserole and check frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Using oven mitts remove the casserole from the oven and set on a trivet to cool slightly before serving.   

       

 

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