macaroni & cheese with broccoli
Here is my cheesy, ooey, gooey Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli. It is comforting (and healthy) for a mid-week supper. Honestly my family loves it so much they request it for special occasions too, like for their birthday dinners. I even made it one year for Valentine’s Day baked in a heart-shaped baking dish.
With it’s creamy cheesiness, I don’t even think they know how healthy it is. I love that it requires no planning because the ingredients are always on hand.
I usually use a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped broccoli, but a large crown of chopped fresh works well to if you happen to have it. I’ve also made it with edamame, which my kids will gobble up like jellybeans. Try it with whatever vegetable your family will eat.
Tips for Healthy Home-Made Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
- To maximize your time, get all your ducks in a row! Start boiling the water right from the get-go, and get your oven pre-heated. Since they can take a while to heat-up, if you start that before you start chopping and measuring, you’ll save a bit of time in the end.
- Undercook the pasta in the water. It is going into the oven, so it will keep cooking in the sauce.
- If you’re using fresh broccoli, add it to the cooking pasta at the end.
- To make the healthier cheese sauce, I use a slurry method. This is different than a roux because it doesn’t require any butter (I like to save my fat calories for cheddar cheese thank you very much!) To ensure the slurry method works best, make sure you preheat the milk in the skillet. Then use a little of the milk to mix with flour to make the slurry. Here I boosted the flavor of the sauce by enhancing the slurry with some Dijon and salt and pepper.
- Once the milk in the skillet is steaming hot, just whisk in the slurry. It’s important to keep stirring and whisking at this point to keep the sauce from becoming lumpy. Pay attention to those corners!
- Only after it thickens, remove it from the heat, then stir in the cheese. That’s the fool-poroof way of melting the cheese, without causing it to clump or curdle.
- Note: if you’ve opted to use frozen chopped broccoli, you just add it right into the cheese sauce. Also note, this will seem really saucy at this point, but as it bakes the sauce will absorb into the pasta for that perfect creamy texture.
- Mix the pasta and sauce, and then top it with a snazzy breadcrumb mixture which will become all golden and crunchy (arguably the best part of the casserole.)
- Since it is already pretty hot, it only needs 15 or 20 minutes in the oven to become bubbly and crusty.
MORE COMFORT FOOD MAKE-OVERS
This delicious baked macaroni & cheese with broccoli is a healthy make-over of the classic casserole. With its crunchy golden brown breadcrumb topping and uber-creamy cheese sauce you won’t miss a thing. This is a family weeknight dinner favorite and is ready in just 45 minutes!
- 12 -ounces whole-wheat macaroni, about 3 cups, uncooked
- 1 large broccoli crown, chopped (about 4 cups) or 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
- 2 1/2 cups milk, preferably non-fat, divided
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
- Crumb topping
- 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (see ingredient note*)
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- When water boils cook macaroni 4 minutes less than package instructions. Add the raw fresh broccoli if using (the frozen broccoli goes in later if you are using that.) Continue cooking for 2 minutes longer until the pasta is slightly undercooked (the broccoli should be bright green and crisp tender.) Drain thoroughly and return to the pot.
- Meanwhile prepare cheese sauce. Heat 2 cups milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often until steaming hot. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup cold milk, flour, Dijon, 3/4 teaspoon salt and white pepper in a medium bowl until completely smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the steaming milk and bring to a simmer whisking often until smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. If using the frozen thawed broccoli stir it into the cheese sauce.
- Stir the cheese sauce into the pasta. Transfer the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Stir together breadcrumbs, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic powder in a small bowl. Drizzle in olive oil and stir until completely combined. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and transfer to the oven. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the topping is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
8 mg cholesterol, 0 g added sugars
- Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
- Calories: 401
- Sugar: 8 g
- Sodium: 744 mg
- Fat: 7.4 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 62.6 g
- Fiber: 9.5 g
- Protein: 20.5 g