Today was all about ME! I had a rough week and what could be better than comforting Broccoli Mac & Cheese? Uhmm... nothing! Today was a good day! To begin with, it was gorgeous out, absolutely gorgeous! My manager was on vacation so I worked from home... Woo Hoo! Lunch time I hit the gym for 50 minutes. To top it all off, work was slow, so it was a relaxing day for me.
In general, I associate Fridays with the weekend, and I have this thing, in my head, that on Fridays I can't eat Indian food, otherwise it just makes me feel like it's a weekday. Fridays are about having fun and eating fun foods. All week I was planning to make Broccoli Mac & Cheese on Friday, I had all the ingredients in my refrigerator and I was so excited to assemble everything together.
At 5 pm I started making my Mac and Cheese and I was done by 6 pm, including 30 minutes for baking. It really is that simple. I LOVE MAC & CHEESE, however I can't eat it that often because of the high amounts of fat. I came up with my Mac & Cheese recipe based off my own Bechamel Sauce recipe, the paprika and crushed red pepper added tons of flavor and color to this dish, in addition, I added broccoli to increase the nutrition in this wonderfully unhealthy dish. My version isn't as terribly fattening as one would typically expect, but it isn't low fat either, it is reduced fat. I didn't cut back on the cheese since that really is the main ingredient and contains Protein & Calcium. Although I would have preferred a much creamier, gooier version of Mac & Cheese, this turned out pretty damn good. Going forward, I will increase the milk quantity by ½ cup, add 1 ½ cups of cheese to the sauce, and 1 cup of cheese on top, this will melt the cheese nicely creating a more creamy texture. In addition, I will cut back some fat by using 2% Reduced Fat Cheese and add 1 more clove of garlic to the recipe.
The best part of my day is I had a visitor. My friend Sheetal was in the area so she dropped by. She hadn't eaten dinner so it was good that I had plenty of leftovers. She loved the dish too and wasn't able to tell it was reduced fat. My husband, on the other hand, chose to eat 10 chocolate sandwich cookies instead of my delicious Mac & Cheese... yeah, laugh all you want, I'm not sure why he doesn't like white sauce pastas. SIGH! Oh well, what did I say in the beginning? Today was all about ME... I just needed some good ol' American comfort food! 🙂
NUTRITION: Milk is a great source of Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K. It is also has a good amount of Protein. Cheese is a good source of Calcium and Protein. Broccoli adds tons of nutrition value... Fiber, Folic Acid, and Vitamins A, C, and K.
- Barilla Elbows - 1 lb. (I was unable to find whole wheat)
- Water - enough to boil pasta
- Salt to taste - to season pasta water
- Olive Oil - 1 teaspoon (to season pasta water)
- Broccoli - 2 heads (cut into florets)
- Milk 1% - 2 ½ cups
- Garlic - 1 big clove
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tbsp
- White Flour - 2 tbsp
- Black Pepper - 1 tsp
- Paprika - 1 tsp
- Salt - 1 teaspoon (more or less)
- Colby / Cheddar Cheese - 2 cups (I had Colby on hand... you can use Reduced Fat)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes - 1 teaspoon (optional... I like heat)
- Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs - 2 tbsp
- Parmesan Cheese - ½ cup
1. Boil the water for your pasta.
2. In the meantime, cut your broccoli into florets. I didn't let the good part of the stem go wasted. Place broccoli in a colander.
Gather your ingredients since you'll need to work quick.
3. Set aside your white flour and unsalted butter.
4. Grease your baking tray... I just used the wrapper for the butter.
5. Set aside your cheese. I used Colby and freshly grated parmesan.
6. Set aside a big clove of garlic, you do not need to chop it.
7. Once the water boils... season the water with salt and a teaspoon of Olive Oil to prevent sticking.
8. Add Elbows Pasta.
9. Place the colander above the pasta water.
10. Cover with a lid and allow the pasta to cook until Al Dente... about 7-8 minutes.
11. In a small pot on low-medium heat, heat 2 ½ cups of 1% milk. Allow this to heat up, not steam or boil.
12. Add the garlic to the milk, this will create garlic-infused milk.
13. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
14. While the milk heats up, in a separate larger pot on medium heat, add butter. Allow the butter to melt.
15. Now add the flour.
16. Keep stirring for 3-4 minutes, this will help cook the flour.
17. Keep an eye out for the milk.
18. Once hot, add the milk slowly to the butter-flour mixture. Keep stirring. This will help thicken the sauce.
19. Check on the pasta... turn off the heat if the pasta is done cooking. The broccoli should be steamed and slightly crunchy, this is OK.
20. Back to the sauce. Add black pepper.
21. Add paprika.
22. Add salt. Combine.
23. Fetch out the garlic clove, you can throw it away.
24. Add 2 cups of Cheddar / Colby Cheese... or any combination you prefer.
25. Stir for 2 minutes until a creamy sauce is formed. Turn off the stove.
26. Add red pepper flakes... this is optional. I love heat so I added some. Stir.
27. Add broccoli to the baking dish.
28. Drain the pasta.
29. Add the elbows pasta to the sauce. Combine well. Check for seasonings, add more salt NOW, if need be.
30. Pour the elbows pasta over the broccoli.
31. Mix the pasta and broccoli.
32. Season with bread crumbs... I used 2 tbsp.
33. Top off with parmesan cheese, or any other cheese you prefer.
34. Bake for 30 minutes - uncovered - at 350 degrees.
35. It is insanellllllllllly good... I was so comforted afterwards! 🙂
TIP: I added some garlic powder on top.