Broccoli Mac & Cheese

When the weather starts to cool off, everyone's thoughts (mine included) turn to apples and pumpkin and maple syrup. However, when mother nature decided to skip the whole cooling off period a week or so ago and go straight to RAINY & COLD, I couldn't help but skip the normal cravings and move straight to comfort food.

Most people will agree that there really is no better comfort food than mac & cheese but for those who arent looking to fatten up for their winter hibernation, the comfort we seek in mac & cheese can quickly turn to distress when trying to get dressed in the morning and finding out that none of your clothes fit anymore because you've been eating a little too much comfort...

This leaves you with a dilemma - stop eating the warm comforting hug that is mac & cheese and keep that slammin' body or eat all the comfort and embrace the fatness?

I'm here to give you a 3rd option - do both.  and do it without sacrificing the stuff that makes mac & cheese the yummy goodness that it is...

Now, this recipe makes me feel a little bit like a mom who's trying to sneak vegetables into her kid's meal but really, the broccoli is a bonus, not a secret we're hiding under a layer of cheese (though that's how my mom got me to eat it as a kid...) and actually adds to the dish.

And you don't have to be on a diet to like it.  It doesn't taste like diet food!  I promise you, this mac and cheese tastes just as good as many other versions out there.  The bonus is that the vegetables are already built in, so you don't feel like you have to make a side in order to have a complete meal.


It's a pretty versatile dish.  While the recipe below uses high-fiber pasta and reduced fat cheese, that's not really the calorie-cutting key - its much more about the fact that there is equal weight of pasta and vegetable soaking up all of that cheesiness.  I highly recommend playing around with it and coming up with the version you like best.  I'm already planning its successor as we speak ;)

Broccoli Mac & Cheese
courtesy of skinnytaste.com, with modifications by me
Click here to import to Pepperplate.com

12 oz high fiber pasta (we used Barilla Plus elbows)
12 oz fresh broccoli florets, any large pieces roughly chopped

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves if you aren't cheating and using the pre-minced stuff)

1/4 cup flour

1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups 1% milk
1 tbsp garlic chili cholula sauce

8 oz (2 cups) shredded reduced fat mexican cheese blend
salt and fresh pepper to taste

1/8 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs


Lightly grease a large casserole dish and set aside

Preheat oven to 375°

Prepare pasta in accordance with package directions for al dente pasta.  Include the broccoli in the water with the pasta for about 7 minutes  (this was al dente cooking time for our pasta, so everything went in together.  If you are using a pasta with a longer cooking time, just throw the broccoli in when there is 7 minutes left...)

While pasta & broccoli are cooking, heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat.  Add onion & garlic and cook for about 2 minutes to soften.

Lower heat to medium-low and whisk in flour.  It will clump and get dry - dont panic.  Keep whisking for a minute or two until it is all incorporated and the mess looks golden.

Add broth, milk and cholula, whisking to incorporate.  Raise heat to medium-high and heat, whisking often, until mixture is bubbling and gets thick.  (This will take anywhere from about 5 - 10 minutes, depending on your definition of medium-high)

Remove from heat and stir in cheese, in batches, until it has melted and is well-incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the pasta & broccoli into the cheese sauce and mix well to combine.

Pour the whole thing into your prepared baking dish.  Top with parmesan and then breadcrumbs.

Bake ~ 20 minutes and then turn oven up to 500° and bake for an additional 3 minutes to get the top a bit golden and crispy.

Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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