Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not-Entirely-Unhealthy Mac & Cheese

I came across this recipe recently and immediately bookmarked it. I don't have a favorite mac & cheese recipe, mostly because I haven't found anything that's relatively healthy but still tastes good. (I recently picked up a box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese and it was frakkin' delicious... but not at all something I can justify eating on a regular basis.) This caught my eye because it wasn't crazy complicated, it used whole wheat pasta, AND it wasn't full of butter or cream.

We had some excellent whole wheat elbow pasta I'd been meaning to use in something, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I ended up doctoring the recipe pretty substantially, and I'm still not sure that it was quite right, but it's a keeper nonetheless. (Also, Victor LOVED it.) I think it would be good topped with fried or caramelized alliums (leeks and onions would both definitely work, and maybe garlic).

Not-Entirely-Unhealthy Mac & Cheese
inspired by this recipe

  • 2 pieces hearty whole wheat bread
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat pasta
  • 3 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1-2 C water (if needed)
  • 1 C shredded cheddar (I used Dubliner)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan, optional
Make bread crumbs: toast the bread, then tear into pieces and pulse in a mini-prep until broken into small crumbs. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the crumbs and 1/2 tsp salt. Toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Add the pasta, milk, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and mustard to an oven-safe medium sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the pasta is tender. If the milk thickens too much before the pasta is cooked, add some water. When the pasta is tender but still slightly al dente (for whole wheat pasta, I find that this point is where it still tastes slightly bitter but has softened - it will finish cooking in the oven), remove from heat and stir in the cheddar.

After the cheddar has melted, stir in the peas. Top with the bread crumbs and the Parmesan, if using. Bake (uncovered) for 10 minutes.
serves 4

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