It’s hard to beat the comfort quotient of a hot, bubbling dish of macaroni and cheese, but the fat and calorie overload can be a health disaster. Here’s how to make a lighter version with all the taste intact.
Start by choosing a whole grain pasta such as spelt or a gluten-free quinoa pasta. These typically have double the fiber of processed white pasta, plus iron and important B vitamins. Besides cashing in on more nutrients, quinoa pasta is lighter in color than whole-wheat varieties, so the finicky eaters in your house won’t even notice the swap.
This recipe gets a flavor boost from extra garlic and uses squash to replace part of the cheese. Squash boosts the vitamin A content of the dish and makes it thick and creamy without having to use a white flour-based roux. You can roast it fresh or buy it precooked and frozen.
Lighter Mac ‘N’ Cheese
- 1 pound macaroni-shaped whole-grain or quinoa pasta
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup pureed squash (made with any hard squash such as acorn or butternut)
- 1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often until the garlic is golden. Add the garlic salt, turmeric and pepper to the pan and cook for 2 minutes to bring out their flavors. Mix in the milk, cheese and pureed squash. Stir it constantly until smooth and the cheese is melted. Stir in the pasta and serve immediately.
Yield: 6 side-dish servings
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more food swaps to lower fat and calories in recipes.