"I often think that if I spent a week following my toddler, doing exactly what he does, I would lose half an a** [butt] cheek on each side." This quote from First Time Mom and Dad made me laugh so hard, I had to share it! It is funny because it is SO true!
My little one, Hannah has been pretty active. She is now four years old, but her moves continue to amaze me. I mean, she leaps like a frog with no effort! A short walk from the living room to the kitchen turns into laps around the kitchen island. She'll break in song and dance anytime, no matter who's watching. And why simply walk to the store entrance, isn't it better to skip? Even when Hannah chooses to walk around "sensibly," she remains a busy body moving toys from one room to another. I do think I could easily loose a few pounds just by following her around. In fact, if my hubby caught on to this idea, he might prefer canceling my gym membership 🙂
We can agree that kids know how to have fun. The simplest things inspire them to move. And the simplest things give them joy. So, I thought I could reach in and perhaps inspire that inner child in all of us today with a twist on kids' favorite dish, mac & cheese.
Today's dish is an easy big kid macaroni and cheese casserole. You will love the "adult" twist on mac & cheese with bechemal sauce, Gruyere and Parmesan. I snuck in spinach, basil and bacon. I LOVE bacon; in fact, I am a bit addicted to it. Every bite of this casserole is filled with flavorful gooey comfort. I hope you try it soon.
Just curious, what was your favorite meal as a child? Let me know in the comments.
Let's make some mac & cheese:
Preheat oven to 400F.
First, cook pasta according to package instructions. Mine cooked in about 9 minutes in salted boiling water. When done, drain and set aside in a large pot.
Meanwhile prep ingredients. Chop bacon in small pieces. Roughly chop baby spinach and basil and set aside. Shred about two cups of Gruyere cheese and prepare another cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
In a cast-iron/ large heavy skillet, begin to brown bacon on medium-high heat, tossing occasionally. When bacon crisps and browns nicely, remove from skillet with a slotted spoon. Place on paper towel to drain.
With the bacon fat, begin to make bechamel sauce. First, cook flour briefly in the bacon fat on medium-low heat.
Raise heat to medium and begin to add room-temperature milk, one-cup-at-a-time, whisking continuously to avoid lumping.
Add nutmeg, garlic powder and salt. Cook for another 7 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes smooth and begins to thicken.
Stir in Gruyere cheese and ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Turn heat off and let sauce thicken to a nice creamy cheesy bechamel.
Combine spinach and basil with the pasta. Add the bechamel sauce and combine well to coat pasta. Add bacon and mix some more.
Place in one large baking dish or divide in oven-safe individual-sized dishes or ramekins. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake in 400F heated-oven for 20 minutes. Turn broiler on for a brief three minutes, watching carefully as top of casserole crisps and browns nicely. Remove from oven.
Enjoy this big kid macaroni and cheese casserole, savoring every bite like a kid would 🙂
Don't forget to add our quick and simple Mediterranean salad next to this casserole!
Looking for more bechamel casseroles? You may like our zucchini bechamel casserole.
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Here is an easy big kid macaroni and cheese casserole. You will love the "adult" twist on mac & cheese with bechemal sauce, Gruyere and Parmesan. Every bite of this casserole is filled with flavorful gooey comfort.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 6 strips good black forest bacon, chopped
- 6 oz fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 15 basil leaves, roughly chopped
For Cheesy Bechamel Sauce:
- 4 cups milk, room temperature
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt
- fat from bacon
- Preheat to 400F.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. It should take about 9 minutes or so in salted boiling water.
- In a large heavy skillet, brown chopped bacon on medium-high heat. When bacon crisps up nicely, remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain.
- In the same skillet, using the bacon fat, begin to prepare bechamel sauce. Brown flour in bacon fat for about 4 minutes or so on low/medium-low heat until it turns golden in color. Raise heat to medium and add room-temperature milk one-cup-at-a-time whisking continuously. Season with a pinch of salt, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Cook for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally,until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Stir in Gruyere cheese and ½ cup Parmesan. Remove from heat and let sit to thicken into a creamy cheesy bechamel.
- Combine pasta with spinach and basil.
- Add bechamel sauce and mix well to coat pasta. Mix in crispy bacon.
- Place in a baking dish, or divide in oven-safe individual-sized dishes or ramekins. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in 400F heated-oven for 20 minutes or so. Turn broiler on briefly and watch as top of the macaroni and cheese casserole turns crispy and slightly golden-brown. Remove from oven. Serve warm.
- Add a simple salad next to this casserole. You may also like our zucchini bechamel casserole.
- Visit the Mediterranean Dish store to purchase our all-natural or organic spices. Create your own 6-pack or 3-pack of your favorites!
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Category: Entree
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Macaroni and Cheese, Mac n' Cheese, Easy Macaroni and Cheese, Casserole
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