Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese

I'm not out to go out and ruin something perfect like mac and cheese.  I like healthy food, but I like food that tastes good more.  And if it tastes great, all the better.

I used to think that the only way to improve upon mac and cheese was to add bacon.  And perhaps more cheese.

As it turns out, a helping of vegetables actually improves mac and cheese, bringing some depth to the dish.

This isn't like Jessica Seinfeld sneaking vegetables into food for kids, making nobody happy in the process.  This is making a basil crumb topping to brighten the flavors.  This is pulsing together creme fraiche, cheese, and cherry tomatoes to create an irresistible filling.

I'm the first to admit that cutting up a butternut squash isn't my favorite activity, but if you aren't up to the task, feel free to buy some pre-cut squash.  Roasting the squash before adding it to the mac assures that it is completely tender by the time you're digging in.  

This is no "healthified" mac and cheese that takes away everything delicious about mac and cheese.  Instead it just adds to the beauty of an already great dish.  Dig in!

Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 small butternut (or other winter) squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into tiny pieces
Olive oil
1 bunch of basil, stems removed
2 slices good wheat bread, stale or dried out in oven
Small head of broccoli, roughly chopped
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
3 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups gruyere, grated
1 pint or yellow cherry tomatoes
3 cups (300 g) dried whole wheat macaroni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  

Place pieces of squash on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse half the basil, all of the dried out bread, the broccoli, and a glug of olive oil in a food processor until a fine crumb forms.  Remove crumbs to a bowl and rinse out the food processor.  

In a separate bowl, combine grated cheese and creme fraiche.

Place the cherry tomatoes and the remaining half of the basil in the food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to break things up.  Stir in the grated cheese and creme fraiche mixture.  

Boil macaroni in salted water until just slightly undercooked.  Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot it was boiled in and stir in the cheese mixture.  Add pasta water, as needed, to thin the mixture to the consistency of cream.  If it is runny, the pasta will soak it up in the oven.

Transfer pasta mixture to a large baking or casserole dish.  Sprinkle with green crumbs.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is crunchy.  Wait ten minutes before serving.  

1 comment:

  1. This dish was so good! I didn't realize it had so much cheese! Haha.


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