I love noodles. Flat, thin, skinny, curly… You get the picture.
When I was a little girl, I have fond memories of my Mom’s buttered egg noodles (even better fried with more butter the next day). I also loved Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I would sit down to a big bowl, and slurp the broth up with my spoon until the only thing remaining in the bowl would be a mountain of slippery, faintly seasoned noodles. I would spoon those babies on my spoon and savor every bite. I always saved the noodles for last, like a reward for having the restraint to only consume the broth.
Fast forward to the present. I know longer eat Campbell’s Noodle Soup (remember the sodium people!), but I still love me a bowl of noodles. So many cultures serve seriously great noodle dishes. Vietnamese Pho? Man, I could eat that every day. And the Chinese do their fair share of noodles, and Japan is close behind with their wheat Soba. And don’t get me started on the Italians. Mama Mia!
However, pasta seems to be one of those foods that is discouraged among many, mostly for dietary purposes. The no carb craze has made sure that consumption of noodles are only to be done in hiding, replaced with tofu or vegetables, sliced mechanically to resemble pasta, or forever banished altogether. Seriously, I’m not making the ‘tofu noodle’ thing up. I’ve seem them in the ‘health food freezer section’. Bleh.
One of my favorite noodle dishes is the classic Macaroni and Cheese. It is true comfort food for me. I love all kinds. Fancy types with penne, wild mushrooms and gorgonzola, to the Annie’s boxed type. The red box of Stouffer’s on the kitchen counter makes my heart soar. Yes, I am not proud, I love it.
Since my journey toward weight loss, trying to exercise regularly and stay as healthy as possible, I can’t have pasta every night. But I can’t live without noodles! I am a firm believer in eating what you crave, within reason. If I’m really craving mac and cheese, but I eat vegetable sticks instead, I won’t feel satisfied, and the odds that I raid the kitchen later in the day/night are practically guaranteed. Sometimes you just have to honor your mac and cheese voice.
Over the years I have made plenty of macaroni recipes. Most of them are fantastic, but they are also full of saturated fat, heavy cream, half and half, lots of butter and more cheese than we all need. I have created the recipe below, that I hope you will try, and you really enjoy. It’s made with real ingredients, but the fat and calorie content are a fraction of the traditional recipes.
The longer I’m alive the more I realize moderation is key in life. Depriving ourselves is not something that works long term. Fixing yourself a lovely meal, sharing it with friends and family doesn’t sound like deprivation to me. It sounds like a reward at the end of a long day to sit down with a bowl of this pasta. And the best part is, you don’t have to wait to eat the noodles last!
This recipe will make approximately 4 servings (portion control people!) I have also cut the recipe in half for just me and my husband, and it works very well. If you like, 3 ounces of lean, chopped ham may be added to the pasta and cheese sauce before baking. Team it up with a big salad, and you have a tasty nutritional meal.
Give me my noodles! Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
- 8 ounces (2 cups) uncooked pasta of your choice (elbow and small penne are nice)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
- 1/2 small white or yellow onion, peeled and grated
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- a few dashes of hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to your taste
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 cups non-fat milk
- 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
- 4 ounces of cheese, grated, your choice (I use a mixture of sharp cheddar, gruyere and parmesan)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs tossed with 2 tablespoons grated cheese of your choice
Cook pasta until just al dente, still a bit firm as the pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, in a medium sauce pan melt the oil over medium heat. Add the flour, grated onion, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, whisking to combine. Cook over medium low heat for a couple minutes, careful not to burn the roux. Slowly add the non-fat milk, stirring to incorporate with the roux. Add the hot sauce, nutmeg, black pepper and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the 4 ounces of grated cheese and the yogurt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. (This mixture will not be thick like traditional sauces, because of the lack of heavy fat. The pasta will help that out with its natural starch as it bakes, so don’t panic!)
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and if using, the chopped ham. Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with the panko cheese mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn on your broiler, and broil casserole until the top is brown and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand a few minuted before serving. Manja!