Caprese Mac and Cheese

Caprese Mac and Cheese

 

Mac and Cheese in August?  I’ll take it, but with a summer spin.  Even during these warm months, I still need a big bowl of cheesy, noodley goodness. I think we all do.

For this batch of goodness, I combined mozzarella, sharp white cheddar, parmesan, and cream cheese to make a velvety smooth sauce.  I then tossed this with whole wheat macaroni and topped with fresh tomatoes and basil.  Voila!  We have savory and fresh summertime mac and cheese.

You can make this dish lighter by using reduced fat cheese.  When I’m making mac and cheese, I prefer to use full fat.  If you’re making mac and cheese, I assume you’re taking a day off from the diet.  Just be sure to eat a smaller portion and not go back for seconds (yeah, like that’s happening).

Serve with a nice salad of fresh spinach tossed with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Get ready for your family and friends to devour.  The entire dish was gone in 10 minutes at my house.  Best enjoyed outside, under a shady tree, with a glass of wine in hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb whole wheat elbow macaroni (4 cups dry)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tomato Basil Garnish – 2 cups chopped heirloom cherry tomatoes (mixed variety), 1/2 cup fresh basil sliced into thin ribbons, salt, and pepper

IMG_20130825_144502

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and reserve.  Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, reserve.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan until bubbly.  Stir frequently to avoid burning.  When butter is melted, add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent and garlic is fragrant.  Add flour and whisk to combine.  Meanwhile, warm milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Whisk the warm milk into the butter and flour mixture.  Increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 5 minutes, whisking frequently until sauce begins to bubble and thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.

Remove sauce from heat, add 1 cup mozzarella cheese, sharp white cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, cream cheese, and parsley.   Stir to combine until all cheese is melted.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference.  Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Top with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

Combine panko and Italian seasoning.  Sprinkle over mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until bubbly.

Broil for 2 minutes to brown breadcrumbs (be careful not to burn).

While mac and cheese is baking, prepare garnish.  Combine tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.

Remove mac and cheese from broiler, top with garnish, and serve!

Servings: 8 (Serving Size: 1 cup) Notes: Adapted from Caprese Mac and Cheese

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6 thoughts on “Caprese Mac and Cheese

  1. emily says:

    I love making homemade mac & cheese but usually wait until winter to do so – I like your summertime spin! I’m also a big fan of anything caprese so I’ll have to try this one out next time I get a mac craving.

  2. Bunny Eats Design says:

    Great idea! I like caprse salad but it’s not filling and eating a whole ball of mozzarella for a snack can be quite spendy. This is a great recipe to make it stretch a bit further. Thanks for sharing!

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