Healthified Mac & Cheese, or My Obsession With Rocco DiSpirito
I have a confession to make.
I have an addiction. To healthy food.
Not something you hear every day. Unless you talk to someone who owns Now Eat This: 150 of America’s Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories by Rocco DiSpirito. I’ve owned a lot of cookbooks in my life, but I’ve never truly been sold on them. Every time I try to make a recipe from one, it’s either too hard, the ingredients are too expensive, and/or it’s WAY too unhealthy. But Rocco sold me on cookbooks… or at least his. The week I got it, I made 3 different recipes (including the one below) and I have plans both to repeat those and make many more.
Rocco is brilliant… he makes healthy substitutions for unhealthy ingredients, using things you would NEVER otherwise think of. I mean, would you ever eat brownies if you knew they had black beans in them? Probably not, but if you didn’t know it, you’d never know the difference.
The Mac & Cheese recipe was another one that intrigued me with its substitution. This recipe contains no milk, no cream, and no butter. Typically, that sounds like no good. But the addition of an onion-garlic puree, which is apparently supposed to mimic a béchamel sauce, is pure genius. Now I’m not going to lie and say this is the best mac & cheese I’ve ever had. Butter, oil, cream or milk will of course make any mac & cheese taste absolutely dreamy. But for 227 calories, it’s a definite win.
Note: My recipe below is slightly modified from Rocco’s original. One key change I made was adding the asparagus… needed to get in my veggies!
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 box elbow macaroni
Small bunch asparagus
1/2 cup onion-garlic puree (see recipe below) *
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar
1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mist an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set it aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions, drain.
Meanwhile, bring onion-garlic puree, mustard, and cayenne to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Whisk in cheddar until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt.
Saute asparagus in a medium skillet. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Once cooked, chop into 1/4-inch pieces and add to cooked macaroni.
In a medium bowl, toss the macaroni and asparagus with the cheese sauce. Season with salt to taste. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle panko over the top. Top with Parmesan.
Bake until Parmesan is melted and macaroni is hot throughout, about 10 minutes.
* Onion-Garlic Puree
1/2 large Vidalia onion
5 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
Combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a food processor; blend until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
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