Thursday, July 18, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese Primavera

I have been making some variation of this macaroni and cheese for many many years. I cut out a recipe from a random magazine sometime in the mid-90's and have been tweaking it over time. The point of the recipe was to create a relatively healthy macaroni and cheese full of vegetables.

I believe it originally included skim milk and reduced fat cheese, as it does now. For the record, I usually use skim or low-fat milk when I make macaroni and cheese anyway. It's what I drink and it's what I use in life. I've never had any complaints :)

The mixture of zuccchini and/or yellow summer squash, peas, and tomatoes (albeit canned--you can easily use fresh if you so desire) creates a nice balance of veggies that are nearly as plentiful as the pasta itself.

I used to solely stick to rotini for this dish, but recently discovered Ronzoni's Garden Delight pastas. One of the varieties called Trio Italiano features not only three colors of pasta, but three different shapes that all cook together in harmonious delight! It works really well for this dish!

I somehow always manage to not slice my zucchini thin enough, and it tends to retain a bit more crunch than most people like (although I love it!). Make sure you cut it fairly thin so it cooks evenly in the oven.

Also, the amount of sauce for this dish is a lot less than most macaroni and cheeses I make otherwise. Keep in mind that the vegetables will release some water themselves which will lend more liquid to the sauce. In the end, it all works out.

Macaroni and Cheese Primavera
Serves 8

1 pound pasta (I usually use rotini, but this time used Ronzoni Garden Delight Trio Italiano)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups skim milk, heated to a simmer
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or simply a mixture of dried basil and dried oregano works)
8 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated (I used Trader Joe's 55% Reduced Fat Celtic Cheddar Cheese)
12 ounces zucchini/summer squash (one small of each), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (plain or Italian-style work equally well)
3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or dried)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for about half as long as the box suggests for al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and then whisk in the flour. Add the hot milk slowly, whisking continuously, until it creates a smooth sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, still whisking so it doesn't burn, and allow it to slightly thicken for a few minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the salt, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then stir in the cheese until it is completely melted. Add the vegetables and cooked pasta and stir to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it out evenly.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir it into the bread crumbs. Top the macaroni and cheese with the bread crumbs and then bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly. Switch to the broiler and broil for another couple minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 430 calories, 12 g fat, 22 g protein, 59 g carbs, 5 g fiber


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