It's been a quiet weekend, as I had to work this weekend and I've been other the weather, but I wanted to make our days festive still, so I created a special, surprise dish for Zach on Saturday evening! I have to confess I almost didn't post this dish, as it isn't exactly light by any standards, but, after all, every healthful approach to eating should include room for occasional luxurious indulgences, right? And, furthermore, Zach and our dear next-door-neighbor-friend, Pam, both sang its praises so highly that I simply couldn't resist... ;-)
I might also point out that I did use low-fat cheese, 2% milk instead of cream, and whole wheat pasta in this luscious macaroni and cheese, so perhaps I may even call this dish both naughty and virtuous? ;-)
Three-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb whole wheat rotini (or other similar spiral-shaped whole wheat pasta) 8oz low-fat jalapeno-cheddar cheese, shredded 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 6 slices center-cut bacon or turkey bacon, diced (optional) 1 T light, nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (such as SmartBalance Light) or butter 3 T flour 2 cups 2% milk 1/8 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper 2 T dehydrated onion 8oz low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. ~ Cook the whole wheat pasta according to package directions. ~ Stir together the jalapeno-cheddar cheese and the mozzarella cheese. Set aside 2 cups of the cheese mixture. ~ If using the bacon, cook in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. If you opt for turkey bacon, you'll probably need to coat the pan with cooking spray. Once the bacon is crisp, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to paper towels to drain. ~ If you've used regular bacon, you should have around 2 T drippings in the pan, still over medium heat. If you're using turkey bacon or no bacon, add 2 T olive oil to the pan. ~ Melt the SmartBalance Light or butter in the pan, whisk in the flour, and then gradually pour in the milk in a small stream, whisking constantly. ~ Bring the white sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, continuing to stir constantly, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 min. ~ Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the sharp cheddar chunks, as well as the shredded cheese remaining after the 2 cups were set aside. ~ Fold the whole wheat pasta into the cheese sauce. ~ If you're using bacon, gently toss the cooked bacon with the reserved 2 cups of shredded cheese. ~ Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish. Top with 1 cup of reserved shredded cheese. Follow with the remaining half of the pasta, and the remaining cup of shredded cheese. ~ Cover the casserole dish, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 min. ~ Change the oven setting to broil, uncover the casserole dish, and broil for 3 min. ~ Serve immediately, warm and oh so grand!