Despite its comfort-food title, this isn’t going to be a recipe for everyone. There are only 5 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese in this dish, yet it has the rich, creamy orange hue of a classic cheesy mac and cheese. What sleight of hand did Cooking Light employ to pull off such a feat?
First of all, the good news for bacon lovers is that bacon is sprinkled on top of this dish before serving, but I think the bacon is just a distraction from the fact that the orange hue comes from — hold onto your hats — a package of frozen butternut squash puree.
Still reading? Here’s the surprise — it isn’t just healthy, it’s good! The squash is creamy and obviously the right color. What’s more, its taste doesn’t scream SQUASH.
Addendum added the next day: We fed leftovers to baby Thomas, who is one-year old. He opened wide for every bite, waved his arms and kicked his feet, a sign of enthusiastic approval. He didn’t seem to care that the orange goodness wasn’t all cheddar cheese, it was a vegetable!
Two changes I made from Cooking Light’s recipe: I didn’t use bacon as we have a non-bacon eater in the household. (No, it’s not one of the poodles. Hardly.) Instead, I sautéed the garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil. Also, I could only find frozen butternut squash in chunks, so I mashed the thawed chunks in the skillet before adding the broth and milk. Worked fine.
If you’re a diehard mac and cheese lover, you may not want to try this veggie-centric recipe. But if you’ve sworn off cheese-laden dishes as I have, I suggest that you give it a try. I think that, like Thomas, you’ll not only enjoy it, you’ll be glad you found a way to enjoy cheesy (sort of) pasta without feeling the least bit guilty.
2 slices bacon, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 (10-oz.) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
10 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
3 cups chopped broccoli florets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, (about 1 1/2 cups) shredded and divided
Heat a large skillet and cook bacon about 4 minutes until crisp. Place on paper towels to drain and remove all but 2 tsp. bacon drippings from pan. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
Add broth, milk and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Add pasta, cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli, cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.
Stir in salt and pepper to taste and 4 ounces of cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover and let stand one minute.
Serves 6 (each serving about 1 1/3 cups)
WW Points per serving: 9