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Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

A homemade, more healthy rendition on the classic American dish. The flavor can be made simple for children, bold for adults, and variated to whatever you desire.

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a large Vidalia onion, chopped into chunks
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of reduced-fat mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 4 ounces of whole wheat macaroni or pasta, cooked
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°.
  2. Place the onion chunks, garlic cloves, and water into a microwave-safe bowl. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor, and blend it into a smooth puree.
  5. Take a small oven-safe dish and coat the bottom and interior sides with the oil.
  6. In a small saucepan, place 1/2 cup of the onion/garlic puree on medium heat.
  7. In small amounts, add the cheddar cheese and continue whisking the mixture. Do not add more cheese until the cheese added melts.
  8. When you have a nice smooth sauce, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt.
  9. In a larger bowl, combine the macaroni or pasta with the cheese sauce.
  10. Pour the mixture into your oiled dish and top with the panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  11. Place the final dish into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until you see the crumbs turn more golden.

Quick Notes

The pasta you choose is entirely up to you. I recommend elbows, but penne, shells, or rotini will work as well.  I'd stay away from any stringy or long pasta for this one.

The dish you use is up to you. A simple 8" x 8" dish is ideal, or a nice small casserole dish like in the photo.

Be patient when adding in the cheese. The secret to getting cheddar cheese to melt uniformly is to add it in small amounts and working it in.  If you go too fast, you'll end up with clumps. A whisk is a must-have tool for this, as well as for your kitchen in general.

Variations

This recipe will create a more mild, simple flavor that children will like. If you're seriously wanting to recreate Kraft's recipe, then you'll have to go the route of using processed cheeses like Kraft singles or Velveeta. Not the most healthy choice though.

If you wish to kick up the boldness, add in 1/2 tsp of dry mustard powder when you start to mix the puree in the saucepan. If you need it even more bold, use sharp cheddar as opposed to mild. If you like it spicy, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the puree in the saucepan. These results actually came out of when I first made the dish and it was very bold, thus I had to lighten up the flavor for Zuzana and others.

If you want to go further than the recipe, try adding in cut up hot dogs or sausage. Use cooked bacon, browned ground beef, or even canned tuna. You can also play with the cheeses if you want a different flavor. Zuzana's stepmom in Slovakia makes a wonderful pasta with smoked cheese, peppers, and sausage. You could easily pull that off with this recipe as a backbone.

Tags: American, pasta, macaroni, cheese, side dish

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