A world without mac and cheese is no world for us. That’s why today we’re sharing a healthier recipe for the noodley goodness from Tina Ruggiero, nutritionist and author of The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook.
Who says mac ‘n’ cheese can’t be part of a healthy diet? For those who are suspect, new science shows that the protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal and help keep you full, longer. Even better, this recipe is super-simple to make and a real kid-pleaser. It can be prepared more quickly if you use frozen broccoli florets or have leftover pasta on hand. If not, you can multitask, chopping the tomatoes while the broccoli cooks and making the cheese sauce while the pasta cooks. Just like traditional macaroni and cheese casseroles, this one is comforting and flavorful, but you’ll be surprised by how little cheese you need to prepare the dish! By using mostly Parmigiano Reggiano, an intensly flavored, aged Italian cheese, a little bit goes a long way. The result is a colorful, tasty and healthy meal that contributes 35 percent of your day’s need for calcium, and 30 percent of your vitamin C needs.
- 12 ounces bite-sized broccoli florets
- ½ lbs whole wheat elbow macaroni
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 2 cups skim milk
- Several grates of nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- ½ cup grated sharp cheddar
- 1 ½ cups large dice tomato
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
- Cook the broccoli until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Remove broccoli (do not drain) and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Use the same water to cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add butter and garlic and cook until the garlic is aromatic, 30 seconds. Whisking constantly, stir in the flour taking care the flour doesn’t brown. Continue to cook for 2 minutes.
- Whisk in the milk. It will thicken as it gets hot. Whisk constantly, any lumps, will smooth out. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, mixture will bubble and thicken and when it no longer changes in consistency, it’s done.
- Stir in cheeses. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir in pasta, broccoli and tomatoes. Spread into a 9” x 9” pan. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. (Mac ‘n’ Cheese can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated or frozen.)
- Bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.
Tina’s tip: This recipe is incredibly versatile. Start with the basic white sauce, then go to town! Experiment with other pasta, cheeses and different vegetables your family enjoys.
Who wants to make healthy mac and cheese? Me! —Erin