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Healthier Mac and Cheese

My friend Mr. M is laying off the meat for a while, so I wanted to find a vegetarian dish to make last week. I turned to one of my favourite cooking magazines, Fine Cooking. Ellie Krieger is their healthy food expert and she came up with this dish which includes a sneaky ingredient; pureed cauliflower, onions, and garlic. It turned out really well. I added an extra garlic clove, cut down the amount of thyme, and used a larger casserole dish to bake this because there was no way it was going to fit into an 8×8 pan.  I didn’t tell my friend that the dish was light and then asked him if he tasted anything different about it. He didn’t notice anything and was genuinely surprised when I told him about the purée. Here’s an interesting tidbit about including veggie purée in recipes:

In the study, which came from Pennsylvania State University, participants were given three meals a day… Each participant received a standard recipe or a version with either a small or a large amount of vegetable purée hidden in it. The variations all had the same volume, but the more purée they contained, the fewer calories they had. The results were remarkable. Participants who got the most purée in their meals ate about 350 fewer calories and two extra servings of vegetables a day without even realizing it. That kind of calorie difference can add up to a pound of weight loss every 10 days, not to mention the potential health benefits from the extra vegetables. 

Let’s get puréeing people!


Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Cheese

Serves 6

4 cups 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 lb.; from 1/2 head)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Fine sea salt or table salt
12 oz. dried penne
2 cups 1% milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 oz. coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar (about 1/2 cup)
1-1/2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1-1/2 cups using a rasp grater)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a steamer basket set over 1 inch of boiling water in a 6- to 8-quart pot.
Cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.

Fill the pot three-quarters full of salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an 8-inch square baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
nutrition information (per serv ing):
Calories (kcal): 350; Fat (g): 8; Fat Calories (kcal): 7 0; Saturated Fat (g): 4; Protein (g): 1 8; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohy drates (g): 52; Poly unsaturated Fat (g): 1 ; Sodium (mg): 7 90; Cholesterol (mg): 20; Fiber (g): 5;
From Fine Cooking 1 21 , pp. 29, December 1 9, 201 2

Handy tip:

How much pasta to serve?
For main course servings, count on 12 oz to 1 lb (375 to 500 g) for 4 servings. In all our recipes, long pasta is measured by weight and short pasta by cups (mL) wherever possible.

Long pasta
Pasta such as spaghetti is impossible to measure by the cup. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, here’s a way to measure. Wrap a tape measure around a bundle of pasta or use a round cookie cutter to measure the circumference.
• About 2-1/2 inches (6 cm) is 3 oz (90 g), 1 serving.
• About 4-1/2 inches (11 cm) is 8 oz (250 g), 2 to 3 servings.
• About 5-1/4 inches (12.5 cm) is 12 oz (375 g), 4 servings.

Short pasta
For popular shapes such as penne, fusilli, rotini and radiatore, 12 oz (375 g) equals about 4 cups (1 L). The same weight of smaller pasta such as macaroni or tubetti equals 2-3/4 cups (675 mL). For larger and bulkier shapes such as farfalle, you’ll need about 6 cups (1.5 L).

Large pasta
12 to 15 lasagna noodles weigh about 12 oz (375 g).


About heathershomemade

Cupcake obsessed foodie from Ottawa, ON, Canada

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