I bet you don’t believe me: Mac ‘n Cheese that’s gooey and cheesy– and healthier than the classic. Just to be clear, I am not saying this is a low calorie, health-promoting food you should eat daily, but when that need for Mac ‘n Cheese hits, this absolutely, positively satisfies it– without causing your bathroom scale to moan with displeasure the next morning.
While I don’t like 100% whole wheat pasta, I love Barilla Plus, which is made from a mix of grain and legume flours, and tastes and chews much like the old-fashioned processed pasta we all grew up on. Many of the major national pasta brands are now coming out with whole grain blends, but this remains my favorite. (No, I do not have stock in the company!) It is sold in a bright yellow box and is available in most grocery stores.
When it comes to reduced fat cheese, not all are created equal. My two favorites, by leaps and bounds, are Cabot and Kerrygold reduced fat cheddars. The Cabot has the advantage of coming pre-shredded, but if you don’t mind throwing a block of cheese in the food processor or grating it yourself, the Kerrygold reduced fat aged cheddar has more robust flavor.* Again, one or both should be available in your local grocery store.
- To cut an additional 71 calories and 4 g of saturated fat off the recipe– not to mention the last cooking step– omit the topping.
- Or, take it in the other direction: cook 6 slices of center cut bacon (which is leaner than regular bacon); drain and crumble in to the sauce after it has thickened. The calorie increase isn’t bad– only 19 more per serving– but you’ll go up to 10 grams of saturated fat and increase the sodium by 100 milligrams per serving.
- I made the version pictured here with green peas: simply omit them if you prefer your mac ‘n cheese pure.
Enlightened Macaroni and Cheese
1 14-ounce box Barilla Plus (multi-grain) elbow pasta
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
3 cups shredded light cheddar
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Coat an 9 x 12 baking dish with cooking spray. Prepare the oven for broiling.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain but do not rinse.
- Combine the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk in a saucepan (off the heat) pan and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is about the thickness of heavy cream, about 7 minutes. Add the peas, remove from heat and stir in the cheese until the sauce is smooth. Transfer to the prepared pan.
- Combine the melted butter, breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan; sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese. Place under the broiler until the topping is golden, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 432 calories, 25 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 17 g fat, 9g saturated fat, 494 mg sodium
* I have an ongoing, loving relationship with Kerrygold. They supply me with product to give tastings to my students at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) and brought me to Ireland to meet their lovely cows. Oh, and their cheesemakers, too. But I really loved those cows.