Food & Drink

You can have mac & cheese and still eat your vegetables

Adding peas, carrots and roasted garlic will make your macaroni & cheese more of a main event.
Adding peas, carrots and roasted garlic will make your macaroni & cheese more of a main event. Darrell Sap/Pittsburgh Post/Gazette/TNS

Macaroni, butter, milk, flour, cheese and more cheese are usually the ingredients associated with mac ‘n' cheese. But how about adding roasted garlic, peas and carrots to that list?

Roasted garlic has a gentle and sweet flavor when compared to its raw counterpart, and it adds a nice touch to cheese and pasta.

All you have to do is to slice the top off a garlic head to expose the cloves inside and wrap the head in foil. Bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour. When the garlic cloves are cool enough, squeeze and smash the softened cloves, and add it to bisques, dips or a mac ‘n' cheese.

Much as I like the carb bomb to be creamy and cheesy, I also like to add vegetables to my mac ‘n' cheese so that I don’t have to go through pangs of guilt when I have two or three helpings. Broccoli florets, diced red pepper and spinach are all team players, but to keep things with the season, how about giving peas and carrots a chance? They complement each other in color and taste, and if they can show up together in pot pies, chicken noodle soups and curries, why not adorn a mac ‘n' cheese with them?

Peas & Carrots Mac ‘N' Cheese

2 cups mini penne

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups (1 pint) half-and-half, slightly warmed

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

5 garlic cloves, roasted and smashed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup cubed carrots (about 3 medium carrots)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs Italian style

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water in a 4-to-5-quart pot until a little less than al dente, stirring once or twice.

Drain pasta and set aside.

For cheesy sauce, melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add flour and whisk well for about 1 minute. Gradually add in warm half-and-half, whisking constantly. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring, until thickened. Add cheddar cheese and stir well.

Remove from heat and add smashed garlic, peas and carrots.

Add vegetable sauce to penne and mix well. Transfer mixture to a 11-by-7-inch baking pan.

Top with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Yield: 6 servings.

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