Who doesn’t like mac & cheese? It’s a comfort dish that can unfortunately be a weight watcher’s nightmare. All of that creamy cheese clinging to tender macaroni can be pure bliss for the tastebuds, but not for the waistline. When I was digging in the stash of recipes I’ve kept in a basket for literally decades, I uncovered one of my favorite macaroni and cheese dishes. With a few minor changes to make it a bit healthier, I offer you a revamped version that’s just as good as the original.
Granted, this isn’t the fat-laden, drowning in ooey, gooey, rich cheese kind you might be salivating for. It does, however, satisfy the craving and delivers a delicious flavor with a few healthy ingredients added in.
Besides it being a popular kid food, mac & cheese is one of the perfect sides to an Easter Sunday ham supper. It’s popular in this house. Leftover ham can be diced and added as another meal option. It can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to dinner, or on it’s own. It’s really up to you.
I’ve made this recipe using regular macaroni, tri-colored spiral, and penne pastas. They all work. I recently started using rigatoni. The large tunnel in the middle allows for the cheeses and flavors to meld inside when it bakes. Each forkful has a yummy coating of cheesy sauce goodness, along with some chopped vegetables.
If you have a hard time getting your kids to eat their veggies, this is a terrific casserole to entice them. Adults, too. Chopped broccoli and fresh diced tomato are added to balance out the course.
When it comes to prep, I use the time while the pasta cooks to chop vegetables and prepare the baking dish. The broccoli is cooked, and everything else is measured out and ready to mix together. If you do this, the time you spend slaving over the stove is minimized. Not that it’s necessarily slaving. I always consider cooking for my friends and family to be a labor of love. But I certainly understand for many that the less time in the kitchen, the better. So I hope this helps. I’ve also outlined the drill in the printable recipe directions below.
With the addition of colored veggies it looks appetizing and pretty to set on the table.
When I cook this up, Hubs circles through the kitchen anticipating a bowl to be handed to him. He may as well be carrying a fork in his hand. He digs in with gusto. You and your family will, too.
Be sure to save a little bit of chopped tomato and scallions for garnishing. It adds a bit more pizzazz when served.
As I said earlier, this would be pleasing served alongside ham, or any meat really. Just chop up any leftover meat and add it to the mac & cheese. It can go in the lunch boxes the next day or served as another meal. I’m super conservative when it comes to stretching the food dollars, so I’m always thinking up ways to make a new meal from the scraps.
I think there’s a kid in all of us. Revamping an old favorite that evokes memories can let us have our cake and eat it too. Kind of. I hope you get a chance to give this one a try.
- 3 cups rigatoni, or pasta of choice
- 1-1/2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 2 bunches scallions, ends sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpsoe flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dash of ground pepper
- 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 ounces low-fat cream cheese
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup Panko crumbs
- Lightly grease a 1-1/2 to 2 quart ovenproof casserole dish. Set aside.
- In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, place broccoli in medium saucepan with lid. Add 1-inch of water.
- Cover and cook broccoli over medium heat on stovetop until it begins to simmer.
- Let broccoli simmer for 5 mins, then remove from heat and drain. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot the pasta cooked in.
- Add the scallions and cook until tender.
- Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper.
- Gradually pour in milk, continuing to whisk over medium heat.
- Cook until it's bubbly and starts to thicken.
- Stir in cheddar and cream cheeses until melted.
- Add cooked broccoli and macaroni to cheese mixture. Stir gently.
- Turn into prepared casserole dish.
- Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top.
- Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in Panko crumbs.
- Spread crumbs evenly over top of casserole.
- Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 20-25 mins until crumbs begin turn golden on top.
- Remove from oven and serve.
Do you have a favorite mac & cheese version you’d like to share? It’s always great to hear new ideas.
I appreciate you stopping in. Have a beautiful Easter weekend everyone!