Healthier Three-Cheese Shells and Cheese

Healthier Three-Cheese Shells and Cheese

For tonight’s dinner, I decided to do another new recipe for my 50 in 15 Challenge, and tackle a healthified version of “Mac and Cheese”. After scouring around for various recipes, I landed on a recipe for Three-Cheese Macaroni at the Food Network website. I made a couple slight modifications to the recipe, and the end result was a rich and creamy dish, perfect for a chilly winter evening.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk (I used fat-free)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper and ground nutmeg
  • 4 oz. grated muenster cheese (plus additional slices for topping)
  • 2 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (plus additional for topping)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 4 c. medium pasta shells
  • Bread crumbs
  • Additional fillings, as desired (e.g. chopped spinach, broccoli florets, diced bacon, diced tomatoes, etc.)

Directions

  1. Whisk the egg, evaporated milk, and spices in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the grated cheeses.
  3. In another bowl, mix together equal parts bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until almost falling apart (7-8 minutes). Transfer cauliflower with a slotted spoon to a separate bowl.
  5. Add the pasta to the same water and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven broiler.
  7. Combine the egg mixture and the grated cheeses in the empty pot and cook over medium-low heat until the cheeses melt and the sauce thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the cauliflower. Purée with an immersion blender (or use a regular blender) until creamy, adding additional water if needed.
  8. Combine the pasta with the cheese and transfer to a casserole dish. If desired, stir in additional fillings.
  9. Top with slices of muenster cheese (if desired) and sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Notes

As I mentioned above, I made a few modifications to this recipe, including adding in some diced bacon (at my wife’s request), adding a mix of bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese to the top before broiling, and portioning out 2 individual ramekins for the initial meal while cooking the rest in a regular casserole dish. I was very happy with the end result. It was delightfully light and creamy, yet surprisingly rich at the same time. All-in-all, it was a great addition to my 50 in 15 Challenge, and a suitable healthy substitution to a classic comfort food.

Oh, and for the record, why must everyone call all pasta-and-cheese dishes “Mac and Cheese”, even when the pasta used isn’t Macaroni?!? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s quite annoying. Thus, I always make it a point to call out the actual type of pasta I use, rather than automatically calling any pasta with cheese “Mac and Cheese”.

Bon Appétit!

 

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