April 7, 2010 in Food

Mac and cheese with a healthy twist

Vary the classic dish to add vitamins and fiber
J.M. Hirsch Associated Press
Associated Press photo

To make a classic, easy meal like macaroni and cheese a little more healthy, grab a can of squash or pumpkin puree and make this Healthier Stovetop Mac and Cheese. Topped with crisped prosciutto and using whole-wheat pasta, it may not be health food, but is full of fiber and whole grains.
(Full-size photo)

A great mac and cheese can be easy. And healthy.

The secret? Whole-wheat pasta shells and a can of squash or pumpkin puree. The latter ingredient may sound odd, but it really is an easy way to add vitamin-packed produce to a dish otherwise devoid of vegetables.

The crème fraîche (you could substitute sour cream, even low-fat sour cream) and Parmesan cheese lend wonderfully creamy and savory flavors that make the pumpkin seem like a natural for the sauce.

A bit of crisped prosciutto also adds tons of flavor. It’s a smart choice over bacon for a healthier dish.

And if you fear whole-grain pastas, get over it. The varieties on the market today are vastly better than even just five years ago. And the sauce in this recipe is robust enough to mask any wheatiness.

This dish still can’t claim to be health food, but it is jammed with whole grains, fiber and produce.

Healthier Stovetop Mac And Cheese

12 ounces medium whole-wheat pasta shells

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 slices (about 2 ounces) prosciutto, finely chopped

15-ounce can pumpkin or squash puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

4 ounces crème fraîche or sour cream

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the prosciutto and cook until just crisp, about 3 minutes.

Add the pumpkin, crème fraîche, hot sauce, cumin and Parmesan. Cook, stirring often, until hot.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 536 calories (33 percent from fat), 20 grams fat (9 grams saturated, no trans fats), 41 milligrams cholesterol, 74 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 10 grams fiber, 698 milligrams sodium.

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