Skinny Springtime Mac & Cheese
This right here is the epitome of cozy spring food.
It’s fresh, bright, and herbaceous, with all the comforting warmth of traditional mac & cheese!
Plus it has the word “SKINNY”, so you know it’s legit.
Making this healthy requires only a few smart moves, so get ready to be cooking it constantly. The first is to load this dish with ALL the spring vegetables, because veggies always equal health. I chose a trio of seasonally fresh ingredients — peas, leeks, and artichoke! — and really went heavy on their usage. In the end this is about 60% pasta, 40% vegetables, so that right there makes it seriously lightened up. But I took things a step further by fashioning an ultra-light cheese sauce, because itty bitty shorts continue to be a thing. So instead of cream I used 2% milk, and I broke down my cheeses into half full-fat white cheddar, half part-skim mozzarella!
Together these swaps lead to a seriously creamy sauce that’s SO satisfying, so tasty, and with a whole lot less fat and calories than your typical mac.
The key to making the sauce is patience, though frankly you don’t need all that much. You start by making a traditional roux, then add the milk and cheeses to the pan. What’s tricky is that fat is a binding agent, and since we’re using skim milk and part-skim mozz, there’s a lot less fat to work with. Because of this, the sauce will take longer to incorporate than traditional cheese sauces, but don’t be scared. At times it will look like a stringy, blobby, goopy mess of a concoction — that’s okay! Trust the process, trust the cheese. With a little faith + diligent whisking, it will eventually combine into a sea of velvety goodness.
Once incorporated season your sauce with salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne, and a touch of lemon. The lemon adds a necessary punch of tang that can’t be missed, but it you prefer, swap in a splash of white wine!
Or just guzzle some while eating, because duh.
Keep the sauce on low while you boil the pasta — if it starts to seize, just give it a little whisk! — then combine the two with the veggies in a baking dish. Top with loads of toasted panko and a touch more cheese, then bake!
In just 30 minutes you’ll be face deep in cheesy, cozy deliciousness.
This is great for group entertaining, or for eating all week-long. Obviously I love eating it on its own — giant bowls for the WIN — but it’s great paired with healthy stuff, too. Think grilled steak, chicken skewers, or even fish!
It’s a side, it’s a main, it’s perfect. And it’s guaranteed to be your new favorite. xo
Skinny Springtime Mac & Cheese
- 2 tbsps salted butter
- 2 tbsps all purpose flour, sifted
- 2 1/2 cups 2% skim milk
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese (+ more for topping!)
- a few pinches salt & pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed or minced garlic
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 12 oz macaroni pasta
- 1 1/2 leeks, sliced thin
- (one) 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered
- 1 cup english peas
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs, lightly toasted
- cooking spray to grease
- Pre-heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8″ x 10″ baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large skillet melt the butter over a medium-high flame, then quickly whisk in the flour to create a roux. Add the milk and allow this mixture to simmer for 2 – 3 minutes, then reduce the flame to medium before whisking in the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses (slowly!) until a smooth, thick sauce takes shape. Lastly add the salt & pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, and lemon juice, then lower flame to low. Keep warm until needed, whisking periodically to prevent seizing.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni as directed, then drain and return to pot.
- Once the pasta is cooked, combine it with the cheese sauce, leeks, artichoke hearts, and peas, stirring well. Transfer to greased baking dish, sprinkling with extra shredded cheese as you layer it into the dish (optional!). Lastly top with panko crumbs and a touch more shredded cheese, then bake on oven middle rack for 30 minutes, broiling for 1 – 2 minutes at the end if you prefer a browner finish. Allow to cool slightly, then eat!