One of my all time favorite foods is Mac and Cheese. I’m sure that’s probably almost everyone’s favorite food. It’s called comfort food for a reason. It’s tasty, it’s warm, it’s full of melty deliciousness. However, it’s not particularly good for you. Health be damned. Sometimes you just have to indulge. What’s the point of being human if you can’t enjoy the little things, like noodles enveloped in cheese?
My philosophy is to try to make those delicious and unhealthy things healthy. But I don’t want to sacrifice flavor. I don’t want some cheapened version of my favorite food and flavors. I don’t want to KNOW it’s healthy; I won’t settle for “It’s good…for a healthy mac and cheese.” I just want “This is good.”
I think I’ve found that balance with this recipe, thanks to Rocco DiSpirito. It’s because of his ‘secret’ bechemel sauce…which contains no butter or milk or cheese, or flour, yet still has all the creamy, tangy deliciousness you’d expect from such a sauce.
Here it is.
The Secret Sauce!
1 large vadalia onion
9 garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
- Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, or another plate, and microwave on high 10 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a blender; blend until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. This makes about 1 cup of puree.
Seriously, it’s perfect and it’s also the base for our mac and cheese today.
Now, as if that wasn’t enough, for my recipe, I used the pumpkin gnocchi I made, so it’s kind of a round two recipe. And can I just say, it made for a glorious combination. Rich and tasty. I hope you give it a try. Remember, you can always replace the gnocchi with regular pasta. It will still be delicious, just omit the sage.
Pumpkin Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
Adapted from fitnessmagazine.com
1 lb of pumpkin gnocchi
1 cup onion-garlic puree (see recipe above)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1-2 teaspoons dried sage
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar
1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mist an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set it aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi (or macaroni of choice) and cook according to package directions, drain.
- Meanwhile, bring onion-garlic puree, mustard, and cayenne to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Whisk in cheddar until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt.
- In a medium bowl, toss the macaroni with the cheese sauce. Season with salt to taste. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle panko over the top. Top with Parmesan.
- Bake until Parmesan is melted and gnocchi is hot throughout, about 10 minutes.