Let’s just call a bad hairpiece a bad hairpiece.
This mac and cheese looks like it has a chia pet growing on it’s head.
I tried to convince my roommate’s boyfriend that it was just growing an extra coat of broccoli-basil breadcrumb hair for the winter, to keep warm, as he stood over the tray with his fork dubiously poised.
(He’s one of those vegetarians for whom vegetables are like extra-terrestrial entities that should be encountered with caution. Pizza and the infamous blue box are more his style.)
He remained skeptical. Gave me a look that said “geez louise, everyone knows mac and cheese doesn’t really have hair follicles”.
And then dug in.
Yes, sometimes even the future doctors of America need to be cajoled in to eating their vegetables. It happens.
And while this mac and cheese has quite a few healthy surprises stuffed into it, it’s vastly different from one of those Jessica Seinfeld-esque concoctions in that it’s not pretending to be something that it’s not.
It is unapologetically good for you. And it tastes nothing like it’s neon orange counterpart. So if that’s what you’re hoping for – some kind of health food miracle that turns cheddar, gruyere and butternut squash into something akin to velveeta – this is not it.
But if what you’re craving is a dish that hits all those cheesy comfort food cravings while still allowing you to feel like you can conquer the world afterwards (or at least shovel a few inches of snow). Then take off those fuzzy boots and your hot pink marshmallow puffy jacket and come on in. I’ll grab you a plate.
So, I’m going to take a detour from mac and cheese heaven to ask you a question. If you could eat peanut butter and jelly bars to help find a cure for cancer…would you do it?
Guess what….now you can! My friend Amanda from Tales From A Kitchen Misfit is training for her FIRST marathon (the Boston Marathon!!) with Team in Training, and is having a virtual bake sale to help her meet her fundraising goals and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve done three seasons with Team In Training so I know it’s a worthy cause. The money that Amanda raises from the bake sale will go to cancer research (some of the work that I’ve done in labs has actually been funded by LLS so YES this is going to REAL research) as well as to help patients cover costs of treatment and hospital care.
Along with a number of other treats, my peanut butter and jelly bars are up for grabs! If you’ve ever wanted to have an Eats Well With Others treat delivered straight to your door, this is the time. You can bid here. And if anyone has any kind of peanut allergies, I’d be willing to make them with sunbutter or soybutter so don’t let that stop you from bidding!
Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese
Serves 6, adapted from 101 Cookbooks
- 1 small kabocha or butternut squash, seeded and cut into tiny chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch basil, stems removed
- 2 slices good brown bread, stale or dried out in the oven
- 1 small head broccoli, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp nonfat greek yogurt
- 3.5 oz grated white cheddar cheese (I used Cabot reduced fat sharp cheddar)
- 3.5 oz grated gruyere
- large handful of yellow cherry tomatoes
- 3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
- Preheat oven to 400 with a rack in the middle. Set a large pot of water to boil.
- Place the squash on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
- While the squash is cooking, pulse half the basil, all of the bread, the broccoli, and a bit of water in the food processor until there is a fine crumb. It may be a bit damp. Transfer to a small bowl and rinse out the processor.
- In a separate bowl, combine the Greek yogurt and grated cheeses.
- Place the cherry tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining basil. Pulse to break things up a bit, then add it to the cheese mixture.
- Boil the pasta in well-salted water until it is slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta water for later use. Put pasta back in pot and add the cheese mixture to it. Add the squash and stir it. Add pasta water until the sauce is thinned to the consistency of cream. It’s okay if it’s a bit runny, as the pasta will absorb the liquid in the oven.
- Transfer everything to large casserole or 9×13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs across the top and bake for 20-25 minutes or until topping is crunchy. Remove from the oven. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Looking for more mac and cheese inspiration? Check out these recipes:
Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers
Baked Zucchini Macaroni and Cheese
Caramelized Sweet Potato, Garlic and Rosemary Mac and Cheese