Healthier Mac & Cheese
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
1 (16-ounce) box elbow macaroni (whole wheat or gluten-free, if you prefer)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2½ cups chopped cauliflower
1½ cups cubed peeled butternut squash
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
¾ cup low-fat evaporated milk (unsweetened condensed milk)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil spray
½ cup grated Gruyère cheese
¼ cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons whole wheat Italian bread crumbs
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- In the empty pasta pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cauliflower, squash, and green onion. Cook, stirring continuously, until the vegetables are slightly tender but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and cook until more tender, 8 minutes more. Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid.
- In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, 1 cup of the vegetable cooking liquid, the vegetables, salt, and pepper. Let cool, if necessary, then blend in batches, if needed, until it becomes a creamy puree (be careful when blending hot liquids). Blend in the remaining 3 cups vegetable cooking liquid.
- Preheat the oven to broil. Spray a deep baking dish or lasagna dish with nonstick spray or oliv eoil spray.
- In the same pasta pot, mix the cooked pasta with the Gruyère, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses and the vegetable puree. Season with the thyme and paprika and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese has melted evenly.
- Spread the pasta mixture in the prepared dish and sprinkle the whole-wheat bread crumbs on top. Pop in the oven and broil until the top and the cheese become a little golden and crisp, just 3 quick minutes, then serve right away!
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