Thursday, September 1, 2011

Recipe: Creamy, Light Mac & Cheese

This recipe made the cover of the latest issue of Cooking Light.   In general, I don't seek out Mac & Cheese recipes, but I was intrigued that this recipe uses butternut squash to create a "Bechamel" sauce - along with different cheeses and skim milk to get the gooey cheesy feel that normally comes from fattier cheeses and cream.   It's bonus mac:  It contains the hidden vegetable.   Plus it gave me an excuse to go to Whole Foods to pick up the fancier cheeses (and a couple snacks....naturally).    The recipe calls for Gruyere, but Chris, the friendly cheese expert, recommended I try Comte instead.   It's made across the valley from Gruyere in smaller batches.   I feel like I'm supporting the underdog of fancy French cheeses.  À votre santé.

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 (1 pound) squash)
1 1/4 cups chicken broth (fat free lower sodium recommended, I just used a boullion cube)
1 1/2 cups skim milk
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt (I used standard FF yogurt, since I already had it on hand)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyere (or Comte) 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 bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 375.    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, about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Place hot squash mixture in a blender.  Add salt, pepper and yogurt.  Remove the center piece of the lid to allow steam to escape (but cover with a towel or there will be pureed squash everywhere).   Blend until smooth.  Place squash mix in a bowl;  stir in Gruyever, Romano and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano cheese.  Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions (no salt or fat); drain well.  Add pasta to squash mix and stir until combined.  Spread into an 13 x 9 glass dish coated with cooking spray. 

Heat oil in a medium skilled over medium heat.  Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmiagiano.   Sprinkle evenly over the hote pasta mixture.  Lightly coat topping with cooking spray. 

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.   Eat until full.

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