Sunday, January 20, 2013

Recipe of the Moment: Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese

At what point does macaroni and cheese stop being macaroni and cheese and become a pasta dish? I've been thinking about that question a lot lately, especially because so many macaroni and cheese restaurants are popping up. As a purist, I tend to think that macaroni and cheese is strictly cheese sauce and cooked macaroni. But if you add some tomatoes or some tuna or bacon, does it become something else?  In the macaroni and cheese restaurants I sometimes visit, the answer is a resounding no, as they come up with some very clever and delicious results.

When Borders closed a little over a year ago, I was excited for all of the discount books. One of my lucky finds was the Whole Foods Diet Cookbook. The word diet through me off for a second, but the large "whole foods" drew me back in. Flipping through it, I was excited to see that the diet part of the book was a sales technique*, and it was, in fact, mostly whole foods and fit perfectly with my diet/lifestyle plan.

*I say sales technique because I believe the word was added to improve sales. Yes, you'll lose weight by eating healthy, whole foods, and the book explains how, but it's certainly not one of the gimmicky lose 10 pounds in 2 days type nonsense I'm used to seeing on the shelf.

In this cookbook, there's a recipe for macaroni and cheese that's healthy. Healthy because instead of adding several pounds of cheese to your meal, you'll instead puree beans and butternut squash, resulting in a "rich, creamy, and lusciously textured nutrient-rich puree that blends perfectly with the sharp cheddar (which you won't need much of thanks to the butternut squash puree acting as a flavor booster and filler too)."

I've made the recipe as they wrote it, and it was great, but last night I went a little crazy after I discovered I was out of milk and added all sorts of wonderful ingredients to make this a healthy alternative to many of the macaroni and cheese dishes out there.

Pretty it may not be, but I assure you it tastes amazing.

2 cups canned cannellini beans
1 cup chopped butternut squash
2/3 cups cream cheese
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, diced
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups cooked pasta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flax meal
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place cannellini beans, butternut squash, cream cheese, and water in a blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil  over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until onions are soft, an additional 1-2 minutes.

When onions are soft add thyme, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

Add flour to vegetables and stir quickly, making sure to coat all the vegetables.

Pour the bean and butternut squash mixture into the skillet and stir until well combined.

Add cheddar cheese and Worcestershire sauce.

Once the cheese has melted, add the cooked pasta.

Oil an 8x8-inch casserole dish and transfer the macaroni and cheese to the dish.

In a small bowl, mix together 1-2 tbsps of olive oil, flax meal, and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the topping over the pasta mixture.

Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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