Mac & Cheese is classic comfort food. I used to eat the boxed kind back in my university days, and my dad made “Grandma’s Macaroni” all the time when we were kids (it was so good – my Grandma’s original recipe with lots of cheese, and baked with a crispy Corn Flakes topping).
Unfortunately most Mac n’ Cheese recipes and the kind from the box are not exactly healthy (sorry Grandma). They usually include lots of cheese, cream or whole milk, butter and what exactly is that powdered orange “cheese” anyways?
Today I felt like some comforting Mac & Cheese, but wanted to make it healthy. This recipe is awesome because the sauce tastes really creamy & cheesey, but it only has about ¾ cup of shredded cheese, and you don’t even need to include it. I felt like adding it today, but I made this the other night, and didn’t include any real cheese.
The rest of the sauce is made up of roasted squash, almond milk, Dijon mustard, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and nutritional yeast. The yeast is the only specialty item, but you can find it at any health food store like Nature’s Emporium or St. Lawrence Market.
Nutritional yeast is amazing. It has a cheesey flavor and is a popular item in vegan cooking because it’s one of the best sources of B vitamins, specifically B12, which is really difficult to get if you don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. A 2 tbsp serving is only 60 calories, and includes 4g of fiber, and 9 g of complete protein! It’s perfect for healthy “cheese” sauces, or you can sprinkle it on popcorn or kale chips.
I’ll warn you, this recipe takes some time to prepare, but it makes for the perfect comfort food if you’ve got some time on a Sunday.
Healthy Gourmet Mac & Cheese
1 acorn squash, roasted (can also use delicata squash)
1 package whole-wheat macaroni
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 sundried tomatoes or ¼ cup chopped (optional)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup filtered water
½ tsp salt
1 cup frozen organic peas (or any vegetable of choice)
¾ cup shredded white old cheddar (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F
Pour 1 cup of water on a baking sheet. Cut squash in half, and place it face down in the water on the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes.
While your squash is roasting you can shred the cheese, and prepare the rest of the sauce. Add the yeast, milk, water, mustard and salt to your food processor (wait to pulse until your squash is done).
Boil a large pot of salted water, and boil macaroni for 6 minutes or until al dente. Drain, pour back into the pot, and add the frozen peas (this will allow them to defrost). Set aside.
When squash is done roasting, sprinkle with salt & pepper and let it cool slightly. Scoop two cups of cooked squash into a bowl and set aside (you’ll have about 1 cup leftover depending on how big your squash is).
While squash is cooling, heat 2 tbsp of oil with chili flakes in a saucepan. Turn heat down to medium-low and sauté garlic & sundried tomatoes for a few minutes or until fragrant (keep heat low so you don’t burn the garlic).
Add oil/garlic/sundried mixture and squash to the food processor and pulse until smooth.
Pour the sauce into your saucepan and turn heat to medium. Once sauce is heated, add to the big pot of macaroni & peas, add shredded cheese and stir to combine. Serve into bowls, and grate with fresh, ground pepper – enjoy!