Sunday, February 27, 2011

Guilt Free Mac and Cheese

We were heading out for a hockey game this afternoon and wouldn’t be home until dinner time.  I wanted to have something that didn’t need a lot of work so I put together a casserole before we left so that we could just pop it in the oven when we got home.     
What I love about this Mac and Cheese recipe is that the calories are reduced significantly because there is no cream or roux used to make the dish smooth and creamy.  Instead I used a pure of red pepper and pimento’s and made a smooth sauce and just added all of the cheese into the puree.  I find whenever I look for good Mac and Cheese recipes I always have a hard time making them when I see that each serving can be anywhere from 800-1000 calories.  This recipe comes out to only 500 calories per serving, and it still tastes pretty darn good!
Also, the recipe calls for panko.  For those of you who have never used or heard of panko you can find it at most grocery stores in the Asian food section.  Panko is a Japanese bread crumb that gives a crunchy texture that regular bread crumbs, you can see how nice and crunchy the topping was.

I will definitely make this again and I plan on making a few batches to put in the freezer.  I’ve been in a casserole mode lately so expect to see a few more in the near future.  I think I’m trying to get in the last few wintry meals in before the snow is gone and the BBQ gets going.
Red Pepper Mac and Cheese
Serves 4-6

  • 2 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup drained pimiento in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 ½ cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Swiss cheese
  • 8 oz large shell pasta
  1. Bring 1/2 cup water, bell pepper, and 2 garlic cloves to boil in small saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
  2. Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  3. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot.  Drain and return to the pot
  4. Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor. Add pimiento and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, chili powder, and 1 garlic clove, process until smooth.  Then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a medium sized baking dish. Stir sauce and Swiss cheese into pasta. Season with salt and pepper and spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  6. Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes.

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