Photo by Quentin Bacon and food styling by Lori Powell and Adeena Sussman
Serving mac-and-cheese in the skillet it’s baked in amps up the homey comfort factor. The secret ingredient in this healthy, balanced breadcrumb-topped beauty is the finely chopped cauliflower that blends in subtly with the pasta. Using three different cheeses guarantees maximum flavor and melt-ability.
2 cups 1-inch wide cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs (whole wheat or regular) OR 2 tablespoons Light-and-Crisp Whole-Wheat Bread Crumbs (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese *
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the skillet
3 cups cold low-fat (1%) milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (5 ounces) *
¼ cup shredded Gruyère cheese (1 ounce) *
1 teaspoons mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 ounces (1 ½ cups) whole-grain or regular elbow macaroni, cooked for 3 minutes less than the package directions (about 3 cups cooked)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush an ovenproof 10-inch high-sided skillet (or 8×8 inch baking dish) with cooking spray.
Place the cauliflower into a steamer basket fitted over the pot, cover, and steam until just tender, about 5 minutes. Finely chop the steamed cauliflower.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and oil.
In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. transfer the mixture to a large saucepan and, whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer and until mixture thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheddar, Gruyère, mustard powder, paprika, salt,black pepper, and the cayenne pepper. Whisk until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped cauliflower and macaroni and stir until well coated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared skillet. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture, place on a baking sheet and bake until the cheese is bubbly, 30 minutes. Then broil until the top is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings
Serving size: 1 ¼ cups
Calories 310; Total Fat 13 g (Sat Fat 7 g, Mono Fat 4.7 g, Poly Fat 0.8 g); Protein 17 g; Carb 33g; Fiber 1g; Cholesterol 40 mg; Sodium 530 mg
Light-and-Crisp Whole-Wheat Bread Crumbs
4 slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread (about 1 ounce each)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place the bread in a food processor and process until fine crumbs form, 25 to 30 seconds. Place the crumbs on a baking sheet, spreading evenly. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Store the bread crumbs in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1 1/3 cup bread crumbs or 4 servings
Serving size: 1/3 cup bread crumbs
Calories 70; Total Fat 1 g (Sat Fat 0 g, Mono Fat 0.5 g, Poly Fat 0.2 g); Protein 4 g; Carb 12 g; Fiber 2 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 130 mg
* Many cheeses are not technically vegetarian because they are made using an animal-derived enzyme called rennet. To make this recipe officially vegetarian, use cheese labeled “vegetarian,” or “no animal enzymes.”