Recipe: Mac ‘n’ Cheese-less

Enjoy this classic comfort food with a healthy twist
Closeup of Macaroni and cheese in a white bowl on a white background.

Making comfort foods like mac ‘n’ cheese healthy can be challenging. But just remember our favorite tip: “Think about all the things you could have and not what you shouldn’t have.” This recipe exemplifies this perfectly. The “cheese” sauce alone has so many possibilities: Add jalapeno and you have a spicy nacho sauce, or pour it over potatoes for an au gratin. Let your imagination run wild!

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) raw cashews
  • 12 ounces 100% whole wheat short elbow pasta
  • 6 cups (about 28 ounces) sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • 4 cups (or more) unflavored, unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) mild hot sauce (such as Cholula; optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine the water and cashews in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain the nuts and set aside. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, but still firm to the bite (al dente). Drain the pasta, rinse and drain again. Set aside in a large mixing bowl and cover.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the sweet potatoes and almond milk to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Strain the sweet potatoes in a bowl, reserving the almond milk. Measure reserved almond milk and add more almond milk, if needed, to equal 3 cups.
  4. Cool the 3 cups almond milk to lukewarm and place in a heavy-duty blender. Add the cashews.  Blend until the sauce is smooth. Add the sweet potatoes, hot sauce, mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Process until the sauce is smooth scraping down the container as needed. 
  5. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well. Place in a 9- by 13-inch casserole or baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Chef’s notes: To make the sauce less sweet, replace half the almond milk with unsweetened hemp or soy milk. For a crunchy topping, sprinkle with whole-grain breadcrumbs.

Nutrition information (per serving)

Servings = 6
Serving size = 1 1/4 cup

Calories: 491                
Sodium: 441 mg                       
Sugar: 11.8 g              
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Saturated fat: 2.2 g      
Fiber: 10.8 g                
Protein: 1 4g                
Total carbohydrate: 79 g

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— Adapted from the What to Eat When Cookbook by Michael F. Roizen, MD, Michael Crupain, MD, MPH, and Jim Perko Sr., CEC, AAC.

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