Skinny Mac & Cheese
|March 6, 2014|
Mac & cheese is definitely one of my favorite guilty comfort foods. It’s a funny story though, because generally a lot of comfort foods come from when you grew up with, but when I was little I LOVED the blue box mac & cheese and wasn’t the biggest fan of the home-made stuff.
When I was a kid, my Grandma would pick my sister and I up from school every Friday and we’d all have dinner together. When it first became a weekly thing, she asked my mom what my sister and I liked to eat. My mom said macaroni. My Grandma, being the AMAZING cook she is, made it from scratch. And of course, me being the child I was, I said it wasn’t the same as having the blue box mac and I liked “my mom’s” better. Although we all know “my mom’s” was really my way of saying I liked the boxed kind. To this day, I still feel a little ashamed because the next time my grandma made mac & cheese for us, she made it out of the box. Sure I loved it at the time, but looking back on it … I was young and ignorant … what can you do?
I can confidently say that my palate has gotten a lot better (and I no longer prefer boxed foods, haha). But either mac & cheese recipe, blue box or from scratch, can put a damper on the diet.
Mac & cheese is full of fat and carbs. But I wanted to make a skinny version that didn’t just replace everything with fat-free labels. Can anyone honestly say that fat-free cheese is better than the real thing? No.
I wanted to keep the essence of mac & cheese intact by not touching those two ingredients. I used full fat cheeses and normal pasta (because I’m also not a fan of wheat pasta) but just replaced the heavy cream and butter with cauliflower. With the added fiber, it’s definitely more filling than the heavy buttered up mac. Not to say this is an every day “healthy” meal, but it’s certainly better than the traditional recipe, twice-baked with bread crumbs on top.
The serving size is for a full bowl of mac, so if you want to indulge without using this as a cheat meal, eat it as a side dish with some chicken and spinach. Who says macaroni has to be a main dish?
Side note: This recipe passed the boyfriend test. I gave it to him and didn’t tell him it was cauliflower. About half way through, I asked him what his opinion was and told him it was cauliflower. He didn’t taste it until I told him. #winning
Skinny Mac & Cheese
Makes 4 Servings ~ Macros per serving: 28g Fat, 68g Carbs, 34g Protein
- 3 cups uncooked pasta of choice
- 1 small/medium head of cauliflower
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to tast
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pour in your favorite pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Personally, I like to go for the fun kind like fusille (spiral) or farfalle (bow-tie, although it technically means butterfly in Italian). Radiatore pasta is what can be seen in the photos.
While the pasta is cooking, cut cauliflower into florets. Place cauliflower, garlic cloves, and chicken stock into a covered pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let steam build in the pot. Cook until cauliflower is tender (about 5 minutes depending on the size of florets).
Drain pasta and set aside.
Pour cauliflower, garlic cloves, and chicken stock into a high-speed blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot used to cook the cauliflower. At medium heat, slowly stir in the cheese until melted smooth to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Gently stir sauce and pasta together. Depending on your pasta and how well it absorbs the sauce, you might have extra cheese sauce. Add it in slowly and put any extra sauce in a tupperware. (You can use it as a sauce for veggies, chicken, etc.) Serve immediately.
I topped mine with a little cayenne (optional!) for an extra kick, but feel free to add your favorite topping. Some tasty ideas: bacon, green onions, jalapeño, diced ham (probably not all these ingredients at the same time)
Play around with different cheese options. They all have different nutritional value to them so have fun experimenting. For instance, the parmesan was lower in fat and higher in protein than the cheddar. I added it to balance out the fat content so there would be more protein than fat per serving.