Mac & cheese can be a true comfort on a gloomy day, and Eating Well's healthy update takes advantage of extra-sharp Cheddar balanced with creamy low-fat cottage cheese and tucks a layer of spinach into the middle, which may help picky eaters down their vegetables. Whole-wheat pasta adds robust flavor and extra fiber. With this recipe they Cut calories by 43%.... Cut total fat by 66%.... Cut saturated fat by 68% and added folate and fiber by adding spinach to increase nutrients. Low-fat milk replaces whole milk to cut down on fat and calories. Use whole-wheat pasta instead of refined white pasta to boost fiber. Replace some of the regular (full-fat) cheese with low-fat cottage cheese, which has great creamy texture. Most recipes can be altered like this without losing flavor and adding calories! If you are sensative to wheat, you can also use Brown rice pasta :)
- 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs, (see Tip)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne
Directions: Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl.
Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted.
Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well.
Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Notes Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, if necessary, then bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
Tip: To make fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs. For dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until crispy, about 15 minutes. One slice of fresh bread makes about 1/3 cup dry crumbs. Or use prepared coarse dry breadcrumbs. Or you can use Panko breadcrumbs.
Per serving: 576 calories; 22 g fat ( 11 g sat , 2 g mono ); 69 mg cholesterol; 63 g carbohydrates; 37 g protein; 9 g fiber; 917 mg sodium; 403 mg potassium.
4 servings | Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 55 minutes
From EatingWell: Winter 2004, The Essential EatingWell Cookbook (2004)