Mac and Cheese With Reduced-Fat Milk and Added Vegetables

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Mac and cheese doesn't need to be sinfully rich to burst with flavor and hit the spot as a comfort food. This recipe takes out some of the fat by using reduced-fat milk and cutting down on the cheese. A touch of mustard and horseradish makes up for these adjustments, and the addition of fresh vegetables adds texture and flavor. It's okay to skip the vegetables if you're cooking for a crowd that just won't enjoy them, but the deep appeal of mac and cheese can provide a cover to slip some healthy ingredients into your meal. If your family doesn't enjoy the particular vegetables used in this recipe, try substituting others. For an even healthier version, use whole wheat pasta.

Total time: 1 1/4 hours | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour, or whatever kind you have on hand
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the zucchini, carrot and bell pepper with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the vegetables on a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and roast for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, boil 2 quarts of water in a large saucepan. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring often, until just tender. Drain well.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Slowly add the milk, stirring almost constantly until the mixture starts to thicken, and then cook for a minute longer.
  4. Add the grated cheese and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until all the cheese is melted and incorporated, and then add the mustard and horseradish. 
  5. Mix the drained pasta, cheese sauce and roasted vegetables. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square casserole pan and top with bread crumbs.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread crumbs just start to brown.

Tip

Slightly undercooked pasta is best for mac and cheese because it'll continue to cook and soften when you bake it with the cheese sauce. Keep this in mind when you test it for doneness before mixing it with the other ingredients.