Yummy Mac & Cheese with Hidden Veggies

Cheesy goodness for dinner (or lunch or breakfast)

I’d be a happy girl if I ate mac and cheese at least once a week. I have a hard time passing it up if I see it on a menu. In fact, I went to a restaurant in New York City (Eatery www.eaterynyc.com) specifically because I’d been told they had the best mac and cheese in the state of New York. As far as I’m concerned, “they” were right. I was intrigued when I came across a recipe in Cooking Light for Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese that uses butternut squash. I tried it on my crack food tasting team (hubby and both girls) and they unanimously declared it fabulous. Each serving has 390 calories and 10.9 grams of fat; far less than traditional mac and cheese.

3 cups cubed, peeled butternut squash (about (1) 1-lb squash) Note: I buy it already cubed to save time.
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup (4 oz) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked elbow or shell pasta
Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup panko
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine squash, broth, milk and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of the blender lid (or else it will explode); secure the blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid so you won’t repaint the ceiling with butternut squash. Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyere, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for two minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining two tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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About Chef Ro

I am executive chef of Barcellona Bites, a boutique catering and personal chef service in Folsom, CA. I am also a wife, mom of two college-aged daughters in the Pacific Northwest, yogi and animal lover. Please LIKE my facebook page for tasty recipes, helpful information and kitchen, cooking and lifestyle tips. www.facebook.com/barcellonabites
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