Who doesn’t love mac & cheese?
While this recipe isn’t exactly healthy, it’s got all the cheesy goodness of the original without all the fat and you’ll get a serving of veggies!
It takes me about an hour from start to finish and makes 8-10 servings.
What you’ll need:
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
3 cups milk
2-3 tbsp flour
1/4 – 1/3 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
4-5 cups of chopped vegetables: we usually use summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers & broccoli
spices: chili powder, adobo, crushed red pepper flakes (optional, we usually use this, just didn’t have any this week so I used the Tajin spice we had)
spicy Panko breadcrumbs
The general order that I use when making this meal is:
1) start the pasta
2) start the veggies
3) start the roux & cheese sauce
4) combine & bake
Here’s the step by step:
First put your pot of water on the stove to get it boiling. Also preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, start chopping all the vegetables. Spread them over a baking sheet or stone and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and toss to coat everything. Once the oven is hot, bake the vegetables for about 20 minutes. I usually check them half way through and toss them around again to make sure everything gets cooked evenly.
Once your water is boiling, cook the pasta. I tend to like it better when the pasta is an al dente texture.
Now it’s time to start the roux. This can be intimidating for first-timers, I know I was nervous. But really, it’s not that hard at all, just start slow and work your way up. (I also watched a YouTube video). Basically, a roux is a thickening sauce used in a variety of dishes — made with half fat, half flour.
In a large pan add about 1/4 cup of olive oil and put on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add sprinkle a heaping spoonful of flour across the pan. It will look something like this (above).
Using a whisk, gently but continuously stir the mixture while slowly adding milk. You want to make like a frothy sauce.
If you feel like you’ve added too much liquid at once, add a little bit more flour to thicken it up. This really is a technique you’ll start to master after trying it a few times. Just don’t rush and dump all the milk at once, take it easy and you’ll be fine.
Once you’ve whisked in all the milk, dump the cheese in and combine.
Now add all the spices. As you can see I’m pretty liberal as we like it spicy in our home, so just add what you’re comfortable with. I tend to add spice, stir in and taste and add more if I want more flavor.
Reduce to low heat and if you haven’t already, strain the pasta. Then toss the pasta right in the pan with the cheese. Stir to combine.
Now it’s time to check on your vegetables. I usually pick out one of each and taste test to make sure they’re tender enough. If they seem good, remove from oven and combine with the cheesy pasta in an oven safe baking dish. I use our oval stone dish.
Now it’s time for the breadcrumbs. I LOVE these, we use it for breading chicken too. They add a perfect crunch and flavor. Coat the top evenly.
Now pop the dish into the oven and broil on high for about 5 minutes. If you’re nervous about the top burning, just keep a close eye on it and remove when you think it’s done enough. I usually shut off the broiler and let the dish sit in the oven for a few minutes before removing.
What do you think? Are you up to adding veggies to your mac & cheese?
Let me know your thoughts!