Recipe Renovation – Creamy Mac and Cheese

I promise you this recipe will taste better than this stuff in a box...

I promise you this recipe will taste better than this stuff in a box…

Creamy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine)

Serves 6

  • 4 cups uncooked medium elbow macaroni
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and set aside.

While pasta cooks, place garlic, flour, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan. Stir over a low heat for a couple of minutes.  Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into milk mixture; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes or until thick and cream cheese melts, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard and smoked paprika; simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl; toss well.

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I usually use rotini noodles to catch all that creamy sauce!

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I combine the flour, salt, pepper and garlic as a foundation for the sauce and flavor profile.

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Initially, add a little bit of the milk to the flour to begin the “roux”.

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The cheese is added to the sauce, which also helps to thicken it.

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The finished product, sprinkled with an additional couple of tablespoons of shredded cheese.

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 257.3
  • Fat: 6.7g
  • Saturated fat: 3.9g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5g
  • Protein: 15.8g
  • Carbohydrate: 30.3g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Cholesterol: 27mg
  • Iron: 1.4mg
  • Sodium: 536mg
  • Calcium: 312mg

Notes about this recipe:

  • The biggest plus with this recipe is a decrease in fat and sodium.  Although the sodium content is not low, it is greatly decreased from the 900 to 1,000 mg found in most homemade or restaurant recipes.  And the fat content is much lower compared to 18 grams found in restaurant recipes.
  • This side dish would go well with steamed veggies  or a salad and a lean portion of protein.

Benefits from this recipe:

  • This recipe is quick to assemble because there’s no prep work involved.
  • A lot of rich sauces start with a roux of butter and flour.  The butter is omitted in this recipe to reduce the fat.  The flour and cream cheese create the thick, creamy texture in the sauce.
  • The fat in the recipe is reduced but eliminating butter, using low fat cream cheese and fat-free milk (instead of heavy cream or whole milk, both of which have a higher fat content).
  • Garlic adds flavor and great health benefits.  Also, using the garlic at the beginning allows you to use some of the garlic juice to create the roux.

Other tasty tips:

  • Add some chopped broccoli, tomatoes, or chopped bell peppers for color.
  • Spice it up with your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Using whole wheat pasta will increase fiber by about 4 grams.
  • If you like a bit of crunch with your mac and cheese, you can sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of PLAIN Japanese panko crumbs on top and broil in the oven for a few minutes.  Just remember to keep an eye on it so you don’t burn the crumbs.  And also consider the crumbs will add about 20 to 30  calories.  It will also slightly increase sodium and carb content, depending on the manufacturer.
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