This recipe and photography were provided by local blogger Abby Thome of The Thome Home.
Busy work and school days can make dinner time feel more like another task to accomplish by the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be, though! Learning how to make one particular dish that you can tweak on the fly is the best way to simplify your weekly menu.
This Mac and Cheese is exactly that dish! It is rich and creamy, and the Niman Ranch Apple Gouda sausage adds an amazing smoky bite.
Once you learn the base for the cheese sauce, the variations are limitless. Whether you choose cheddar cheese, pepper jack or add in shredded rotisserie chicken with broccoli, this recipe is a great staple to keep in your box of ideas for dinner in less than 20 minutes!
- 1 box Heinen’s cavatappi pasta (Sub for bowtie or penne)
- 6 oz. Heinen’s baby spinach
- 1 12 oz. package of Niman Ranch apple Gouda sausage, sliced into coins
- 8 oz. Heinen’s Monterey block cheese, shredded
- 8 oz. Heinen’s sharp white cheddar block cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cup half & half
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
Note: You will need only two pans for this dish. One to start the cheese sauce and the other to boil the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, use that same pot to warm the sausage and spinach.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water generously and add the Cavatappi pasta. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- In the second pot, or Dutch oven, add the milk, half and half, flour, garlic powder, Dijon, salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously to ensure that the flour has been absorbed by the milk. Let this sit, without any heat, until there is 5 minutes left for the pasta cook time.
- At the 5 minute mark, turn on the heat to low for the cheese sauce base. Let it warm through for the remaining 5 minutes of the pasta cook time.
- When pasta is done, reserve 1/2 a cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set to the side.
- Turn the heat for the cheese sauce base up to medium and bring it to a simmer, whisking frequently until it bubbles gently.
- While this is cooking, add a Tbsp. of olive oil, sliced sausage and the entire package of spinach to the pot that was used to cook the pasta. Turn the heat to medium and stir together. Within 4-5 minutes the spinach will wilt and the sausage will be warmed through.
- After 5 minutes, turn off the heat for the spinach and sausage and turn your attention to the simmering cheese sauce base. It should have thickened during this time.
- Turn the heat to low and add the shredded cheeses, stirring until completely melted.
- Add the cooked pasta and stir until the noodles are fully coated. If your sauce is too thick, simply add the half of the 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to thin it out.
- Add the cooked sausage and spinach and stir together to combine.