Monday, February 27, 2012

Mac & Cheese, light but good!

As far as macaroni and cheese goes, nothing beats the real, cheesy, full fat deal. That's just not always a feasible way to eat, though. For little kids or big kids. This lighter version has great flavor and we all really like it, but it just doesn't have that traditional mac & cheese feel we're sometimes looking for. I ran across this version in an old Cooking Light, and it hits that hot from the oven, ooey, gooey spot.

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

The cheeses for this, especially the  Gruyère, are pricey, but they are a big part of the flavor. I'm sure sharp cheddar or maybe even Swiss could be substituted to keep it more budget friendly. The butternut squash not only added a lovely creaminess, it also added a bit of sweetness. G2 said it was some of the best macaroni and cheese he's ever had. I wouldn't go that far, but it is a definite winner. I made the full recipe, than froze half so I can thaw and reheat on a night when I have class or just don't feel like starting from scratch.

*According to Cooking Light, here is the break down of the original v. the lighter version.
Original                         Light Version
908 calories                   390 calories
963 mg sodium              589 mg sodium
36 g saturated fat           6.1 g saturated fat (Wow!)
And, the butternut squash is a great source of vitamins A, C and E. Leaps and bounds healthier than the traditional with a bunch of butter and whole milk.

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