Mac and cheese is undoubtedly an American favorite. Not only does it serve as fantastic comfort food, but it is also one of the few foods that parents always seem to be able to get their kids to eat without a fight. This version is unbelievably delicious, much lower in calories than traditional mac and cheese (which is typically made with butter, cream and full fat cheese) and contain four different types of cheeses!! The secret to making Light Macaroni and Cheese so creamy without adding loads of butter is sweet, pureed, butternut squash.
Light Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 9 x 13 inch baking dish
- 1 large pot
- 1 large bowl
- 1 large saucepan
- 1 small bowl
- 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni (or another small pasta noodle, if you prefer)
- 2 packages frozen pureed winter squash (10 ounces)
- 1⅓ cups low/reduced fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 4 ounces)
- ⅔ cup low/reduced fat Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2 ounces)
- ½ cup part skim or fat free ricotta cheese
- 2 cups skim (or 1% lowfat) milk
- 1 teaspoon powdered (sometimes called “dry”) mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned bread crumbs
- 3 teaspoons low/reduced fat parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and generously coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and once boiling, add the macaroni; cook until tender but firm, (only about 5 to 8 minutes). Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large squash chunks with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar, monteray jack, and ricotta as well as the salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir well to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture to the baking dish.
- Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl and then sprinkle this mixture over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.
Alternative Method: Using a Microwave
To quickly prepare a light and tasty Macaroni and Cheese using a microwave, follow this specific method for a convenient and satisfying dish:
- 8 ounces of elbow macaroni
- 2 cups of low-fat milk
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: breadcrumbs for topping
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour until well combined, creating a roux.
- Gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Microwave the mixture in 1-minute intervals, stirring after each interval until the sauce thickens. This should take approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, reserving a handful for topping. Microwave the mixture for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the cheese has melted completely. Stir well to combine.
- Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and mix until the pasta is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If desired, sprinkle the reserved shredded cheese and breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese for a crispy topping.
- Microwave the dish for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese on top has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave (it will be hot) and let it cool for a minute or two before serving.
- Serve the light and creamy Macaroni and Cheese straight from the microwave and enjoy!
By utilizing the microwave, you can whip up a quick and satisfying Macaroni and Cheese without the need for extensive stovetop cooking. This method is perfect for those times when you’re craving a comforting meal but want to save time and effort.
To ensure the best results and enhance your culinary skills, here are some valuable cooking tips and tricks, along with insights on common mistakes to avoid. These recommendations will help you create delicious and satisfying dishes.
- Offer tips and tricks to ensure the best results:
When marinating meat, allow enough time for the flavors to penetrate by refrigerating it for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. This will enhance the taste and tenderness of your dish.
- Share insights on common mistakes to avoid:
Avoid overcrowding the pan when sautéing or stir-frying ingredients. Overcrowding can lead to steaming instead of achieving a crispy texture. Cook in batches if necessary, allowing each ingredient to have enough space to cook evenly.
- Use a sharp knife for precision:
Invest in a good-quality, sharp knife. A dull knife can make cutting and chopping more challenging and increase the risk of accidents. Keep your knife sharp by honing it regularly using a honing steel or having it professionally sharpened.
Once your masterpiece is ready, it’s time to think about the presentation and accompaniments that will elevate the flavors of Light Macaroni and Cheese. Here are some serving suggestions to enhance your dining experience. From complementary sides and garnishes to creative ways of serving, these ideas will add a touch of finesse to your meal.
Recommend sides, garnishes, or beverages that complement the flavors:
Serve a fresh green salad with a tangy vinaigrette alongside your main course to provide a refreshing contrast. The crispness and acidity of the salad will balance the richness of the dish.
Suggest different ways to serve Light Macaroni and Cheese:
For a creative twist, consider serving your dish on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes or a fragrant bed of jasmine rice. These versatile bases not only add texture but also help absorb and complement the flavors of your main dish.
FAQs about Light Macaroni and Cheese
As you embark on your culinary journey, it’s natural to have questions along the way. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to assist you in your cooking endeavors. From storing leftovers to clarifying cooking techniques, these FAQs will address common concerns and provide you with the information you need.
How should I store leftovers?
To store leftovers properly, allow the dish to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Refrigerate within two hours of cooking. Leftovers can typically be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.
How can I prevent my macaroni from sticking together?
To prevent macaroni from sticking together, make sure to use a large pot with ample boiling water. Add salt to the water before cooking the macaroni. Stir the macaroni frequently during cooking to ensure even cooking and to prevent clumping. Once cooked, drain the macaroni immediately and toss it with a bit of olive oil to further prevent sticking.
What should I do if my sauce is too salty?
If your sauce is too salty, you can balance the flavors by adding a small amount of acidity, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Another option is to dilute the sauce by adding more unsalted liquid, such as broth or water. Taste and adjust as needed.
How can I make my baked goods more moist?
To ensure moist baked goods, avoid overmixing the batter, as this can develop gluten and lead to a dense texture. Additionally, consider adding ingredients like sour cream, yogurt, or applesauce to the batter, as these can provide moisture and tenderness to your final product.
In this comprehensive blog post, discover expert cooking tips and tricks, serving suggestions, and frequently asked questions to elevate your culinary skills. Don’t miss the mouthwatering alternative method using an Instant Pot pressure cooker. Plus, the call-to-action invites you to share the recipe and subscribe to the blog for more delicious content. Get ready to impress with your newfound cooking prowess!