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.