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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese, Part Deux

I've loved to cook for as long as I can remember. There have been times when I toyed with the idea of cooking school, but then when I'd consider the careers in food waiting after, I quickly put the idea away. Besides, cooking for a family or group of friends is a whole lot different than catering a party or for an entire restaurant.

Anyway, this love of cooking means that I've been squirreling away (and losing) recipes for a long time. I fondly remember a recipe from years ago for a delicious alfredo sauce made with fat-free evaporated milk. About 2 million or so less calories and grams of fat than the original recipe and nearly as good. I think about it now and again, but today, while making this macaroni and cheese recipe from an old Every Day with Rachel Ray, I remembered the alfredo sauce. The premise is the same: reducing evaporated milk in a sauce pan.

After last week's fiasco mac & cheese, I thought I might try another version. I can't bear the thought of my son preferring a box of pasta with a baggie of cheese powder over something homemade. Here's the newest attempt:

Macaroni & Cheese

1 3/4 cups fat-free evaporated milk, divided
3 tablespoons of flour

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 ounces shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)

3/4 lb whole-wheat macaroni, such as elbow pasta

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli

6 cups baby spinach leaves, rinsed

6 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Place a large pot of water over high heat for boiling pasta. Place 1 cup of evaporated milk in a large saucepan. Pour remaining 3/4 cup into a medium bowl and whisk in flour, mustard, garlic powder, paprika, salt and nutmeg.

Bring evaporated milk to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in flour mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in Cheddar cheese until melted. Cover to keep warm.

Cook broccoli according to package directions, then drain. Add pasta to boiling water and cook 6 minutes. Add spinach and cook 30 seconds more, just until wilted. Drain pasta and spinach and blend into cheese sauce, along with broccoli. Stir pasta and cheese over medium-low heat until mixture is hot, about 1 minute. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of the Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves 6

The Verdict: Now that's mac and cheese!

I'll admit that I omitted the broccoli because my husband and son are hard to please in the vegetable department. And Amir did eat around the spinach. Maybe next time I'd cut the spinach up so that avoidance would become just that much harder. But the macaroni and cheese itself? Fantastic. Creamy, rich and full of flavor. I had time yesterday afternoon to cook, so I made this dish then. When reheating it I added about a 1/4 cup of milk to regain it's full creamy texture.

There's plenty for lunches tomorrow, so the serves six is just about right. And the best part is that I'm looking forward to the leftovers--I hate leftovers. Don't ask me why, I just do. So a recipe has to be pretty good for me to want to eat it again a day later.

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