By the looks of this blog it may appear that I consume a diet rich in cream, butter, and cheese but in reality I try to keep a pretty balanced diet – that is, minus the last two months of my life where I’ve been stuffing my face like a gluttonous pig. And while I constantly preach the motto “everything in moderation,” I’ve sort of failed to put as many healthy things on the blog as I actually eat. So starting today and hopefully every Friday from here out, I’ll be posting healthy dishes AND low-cost dishes, because let’s be serious we could all use a slight break on the pocketbook. I’ve lovingly coined this series, Frugal and Figure Friendly Fridays. I know, it’s a mouthful, but hey, Healthy and Inexpensive Fridays, just didn’t have the same ring to it.
You may remember my previous mac and cheese post from the beginning days of the blog that was adapted from an Alton Brown recipe – which is still to this day the creamiest mac & cheese I’ve ever made. I’ve taken the fundamentals of that recipe and have morphed it into a low-fat version that, in my opinion, is just as good. The key ingredient is still evaporated milk, but instead of using a full-fat version, I use a reduced-fat evaporated milk – normally I would make a béchamel sauce with 2% or skim milk, but I’ve found in the past that low fat béchamel actually turns out quite grainy, which is totally unappetizing. By using the evaporated milk you still have that creamy silky smooth sauce that is tough to get with any other ingredient.
It’s no secret that the main culprit in the calorific macaroni and cheese comes from the actual cheese, so I’ve switched out the normally fatty whole milk cheese with a cheese that uses 1% milk and has a reduction in fat and calories by 75%. Now, I was completely terrified to use cheese that had that large of a reduction in fat and calories, but it was shockingly good and melted beautifully. The only downside? It does not reheat well, be warned.
Now let’s get to it.
This step is completely optional, but if you’re making healthy mac and cheese you might as well throw in something green to amp up the nutrients – with broccoli being my favorite vegetable, it just made sense to me, I realize that kids are not particularly found of green veggies so feel free to leave it out
Cook the past until al dente (still has a bite to it), and if you’re using broccoli or any other frozen vegetable, just throw it in about two minutes before you pull the pasta out.
Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to pot. Reserve a little bit of pasta water.
Whisk the evaporated milk, egg, garlic, and salt together.
With the heat on low, add the evaporated milk mixture and butter. Stir until the pasta is completely coated. (The butter does not need to be melted yet)
Add grated cheese and softened cream cheese, stir over a low heat until all the cheese is melted. If necessary add a little bit of pasta water to loosen the sauce up.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I prefer a crunchy topping on my mac and cheese, but like the broccoli, this is totally a personal choice. If you’re like me and crave that contrast in texture, mix about a cup of panko with a little bit of olive and cook in a small sauté pan over a medium heat until toasty and golden brown.
- 12 ounces Ronzoni high fiber penne or whole wheat penne
- 8 ounces chopped frozen broccoli (optional)
- 8 ounces reduced-fat evaporated milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 small garlic clove grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces cabot 75% reduced fat cheese, grated (or a white cheddar cheese made with 2% milk)
- 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs + 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- Cook pasta until al dente. Add frozen broccoli to the pasta in the last two minutes of cooking.
- While the pasta is cooking whisk the evaporated milk, egg yolk, salt, and garlic together in a medium mixing bowl.
- Drain pasta and broccoli and return to pan. With the heat on low, add evaporated milk mixture and butter to the pasta. Stir until the pasta is completely coated and then add cheeses, stirring until everything is melted and creamy. If necessary add a little bit of pasta water to loosen the sauce up. Season with salt and pepper.
- For the optional topping of panko: Mix panko and olive together in a small sauté pan. Cook on medium until bread crumbs are brown, about three minutes. Sprinkle over mac and cheese.