Comfort food. It means different things to different people. What does comfort food mean to me? Well, it’s something that nourishes my soul. It makes me feel like everything is going to be OK. Comfort foods don’t have to be decadent, cheesy, or rich….but it certainly helps, at least in my book. White cheddar Cajun mac and cheese is spicy and zesty comfort food that is perfect on a cold winter’s day.
Is there a difference between white and yellow Cheddar cheese?
Not gonna lie, this surprised me a little. White cheddar cheese and yellow cheddar cheese are basically the same except for one ingredient that gives the yellow Cheddar cheese it’s color. Annatto is added to yellow Cheddar cheese to give it the all familiar orangey-yellow color. I know what your next question might be, what the heck is annatto?
Ok, so annatto is a red color seasoning that is derived from the seeds from an achiote tree. So….what is an achiote tree? Well, it’s a shrubbery like tree that is native to South America and Mexico, and on the top of it sprouts these vibrantly red tuft-like flowers. From the seeds we get annatto seasoning, which can color made foods like Cheddar cheese. Pretty cool huh? I like knowing a food is colored with a natural substance instead of artificial food dye.
So at the end of the day, there’s not flavor difference between a yellow Cheddar and a white Cheddar cheese. Now, there will be differences depending on the sharpness of the Cheddar, but if we’re just talking about the flavor, there’s no difference. For this recipe I chose to make it a white cheddar mac and cheese because I didn’t want the added yellow color in the cheese sauce. I wanted the white canvas the white Cheddar cheese sauce created so that the Cajun seasoning would create the reddish color in the sauce, and not have to compete with anything yellow or orange.
Andouille sausage really gives this cajun mac and cheese a serious kick of spice. The cajun seasoning really isn’t spicey, it’s more zesty. The andouille is the ingredient that adds the spice. Traditionally, andouille is a smoked pork sausage, although I’ve seen chicken versions. The added spices and seasonings to the sausage give this a medium-level heat. It won’t make you run for a glass of milk it’s so hot, but it’s definitely spicier than a hot Italian sausage. I really like the flavor it adds, and the creaminess from the white cheddar cheese sauce helps smooth out the spice.
While you can make your own Cajun seasoning, I chose to buy a premade spice. For me, it’s just easier so I can use exactly as much as needed for this recipe, then save the bottle for future recipes.
White Cheddar Cajun Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Cajun Mac and Cheese is a spicy and zesty mac and cheese dish. Seasoning with Cajun seasoning, andouille sausage, and red peppers, this is a robust comfort food that will leave you wanting seconds and thirds!
3 cups uncooked elbow noodle pasta
12oz package of andouille sausage (6 sausage links), diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 8oz blocks of white Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt (you can add more if you’d like, but the Cajun seasoning has some salt in it too)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, cook the elbow noodles according to package directions. In a large pan, heat the 1 tablespoons of olive oil of medium-high heat. Add the red peppers and and andouille and cook for 10-15 minutes until browned. Using a slatted spoon, remove the peppers and sausage and place in a bowl. Wipe the pan clean. At this time, preheat your oven to 350.
2. In the same pan, over medium heat melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, then stir in the flour and salt. Slowly stir in the milk, and cook until smooth and slightly thickened. Lower heat to low, then pour in 4 cups of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese has completely melted, then stir in the Cajun seasoning.
4. Place the cooked and drained elbow noodles in your baking dish. Then, pour in the red peppers and sausage and stir to disperse these throughout the pasta. Next, pour the cheese sauce over top. Stir together to make sure all noodles are coated, even the noodles on the edges of the dish. Lastly, top with the shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then place under the broiler for 5 minutes until the cheese is browned.