Two- Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Cover Recipe:

Cover Recipe: Cooking Light, Sept. 2013:  Two- Cheese Mac and Cheese

Today’s feature come from the current issue of Cooking Light magazine: September 2013. The cover boasts “Simple and Satisfying, highlighting this Two-Cheese Mac & Cheese as their “Best Ever” Mac and Cheese.

The cover recipe is in a section of the magazine called, “Dinner Tonight: Fast, Healthy Weeknight Menus.” This is such a big topic right now since all the kids are back in school and households are busy with homework and after-school sports, etc. Everyone is looking for easy ideas that are a good alternative to fast food. Other delicious recipes in this weekly round-up are Kale and Onion Grilled Cheese, Lemon- Parsley Chicken, Pork Scaloppine, and Steak with Salad and Pesto. I’m pretty sure my family would be excited about any of the meals in this menu (minus the kale, unless I could sneak that by unnoticed!) Each night’s menu also calls for a quick side dish (instructions included). This Mac and Cheese recipe suggests Roasted Broccolini and Red Bell Pepper as its side dish. I didn’t prepare the side, but I did prepare the Mac. Read my notes below to see what I thought of this recipe…

Two Cheese Mac and Cheese

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Two- Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 6 servings (1 cup)

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Ingredients:

10 ounce large elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken stock, divided
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
8 teaspoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
3 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Set aside.
2. Preheat broiler to high.
3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not brown). Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour; stir with a whisk until flour dissolves. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove milk mixture from heat; add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheddar evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes.

Tips:

*I minced the garlic instead of crushing it. I didn't want big chunks of garlic floating around in my Mac and Cheese.
*If you're thinking of using nonfat milk instead of 2% in an effort to cut the fat further, I'd say that's probably not the best idea. The sauce is quite runny and thickens up in the end, but if nonfat milk were used, it may not thicken up much at all.
*Be sure to use a good quality EXTRA SHARP cheddar cheese for maximum flavor.
*I'd add in a few red pepper flakes when you saute the garlic (to add a little more flavor to the dish).
*I sprinkled kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on individual servings.

NOTE: For the Roasted Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place 6 cups broccoli florets, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 2 sliced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper on a jelly-roll pan; toss to coat. Bake vegetables 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring after 5 minutes.

Nutritional Information per serving of Mac and Cheese:
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories per serving: 358
Fat per serving: 15g
Saturated Fat per serving: 6.1g
Sodium per serving: ,span class="sodium">409g
Fiber per serving: 17g
Protein per serving: 14.4g
Cholesterol per serving: 31mg
Carbohydrates per serving: 40.7g

Source: Cooking Light

The results:

I’m a huge Mac and Cheese fan, so making a recipe that called for only low fat cream cheese within the body of the recipe and a small amount of cheese sprinkled on top… made me a bit skeptical that this was going to be all that great.  It actually was great.  I sprinkled kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on individual servings.  I’d probably add some red pepper flakes to step 3 for a little more flavor.  I had to resist adding more cheese, but you certainly could do so.  All in all though, everyone in my family thought this was very good.  One thing to note:  the recipe notes 6 sensible one-cup servings but between 2 hungry boys and myself, we ate the whole thing!

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Yes!   It’s simple and satisfying.   It’s a healthier version of Mac and Cheese that is very family-friendly.  You could totally make this ahead and warm it up at dinner time.  Big win for families who are looking for quick and healthy meals.

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.

8 Responses to “Two- Cheese Macaroni and Cheese”

  1. 1

    Renee @ Awesome on $20 — September 2, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    Yeah, when you said ‘healthy mac & cheese” I was like, there’s no such thing. I’m glad to see that you liked it. I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. 2

    Tieghan — September 2, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

    Oh wow, this looks amazing!! I have never used chicken broth in mac and cheese, but I trust you, so I think I need to make this! Thank you for sharing!

  3. 3

    Anna@CrunchyCreamySweet — September 3, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

    I will have to try this lighter version of mac and cheese as my kids are huge fans! Great review, Lori!

  4. 4

    bridget {bake at 350} — September 3, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    Lori…this looks so good! Cream cheese?!? Hello! Love your notes! I always love a little red pepper, too!

  5. 5

    Becky — September 4, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

    Interesting. Since you do not salt the pasta is it salty enough? I’m a big proponent of cooking my pasta in heavily salted water since it flavors the entire outcome of a pasta dish, but I’m guessing the chicken broth stands in for the salted water. So if you make this a 3 serving meal it becomes 716 calories per serving – yikes! I always like to add some dry mustard to my mac n cheese. Especially since this recipe is careful not to use too much cheese, some mustard or red pepper flakes would probably add great flavor!

    • Lori Lange replied: — September 4th, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

      I personally didn’t think so, but I also like to add a good sprinkle of salt to pretty much everything when it is served!

  6. 6

    Jamie — September 9, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    I made this as a side dish and my family loved it, my son and I ate it for a couple days afterwards. When I asked my husband how he liked it his response was “very good, but it can’t be healthy” and I told him it was a lightened up version of mac & cheese, he was surprised. It was very good and I will make this again. Next time I’ll add the red pepper flakes as Lori suggested and maybe some spinach to give it some more nutrients. I also used more garlic than the recipe called for and we thought the garlic was a huge bump to making this so good.

    • Lori Lange replied: — September 10th, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

      Adding spinach sounds like a wonderful idea! Glad you all enjoyed…

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