Why This Recipe Works
It's hard to eat healthy all the time, especially when a craving strikes for something comforting and a little decadent—such as macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, most nutritious riffs on the cheesy classic are simply blander versions of the original. We vowed to create a macaroni and cheese we'd actually enjoy eating that also delivered good nutritional benefits. Switching from white pasta and panko bread crumbs to whole-wheat versions was a simple start that provided more fiber and protein. We toasted the panko to crisp it up before combining it with Parmesan to make a crunchy, savory topping. We also cooked a hearty 12 ounces of vitamin K-rich Swiss chard and stirred it in just before serving to bulk up the meal. As for our cheese sauce, simply switching to 1 percent low-fat milk led to a chalky sauce, but we found that stirring in a couple ounces of cream cheese turned it velvety and ultra-creamy. Our macaroni and cheese delivered more greens than pasta but tasted comforting and rich, and it was packed with plenty of nutrients. We love the nutty flavor of Gruyère in this recipe, but if you prefer a milder cheese sauce, you can substitute sharp cheddar.
¼ cup 100 percent whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces 100 percent whole-wheat elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups organic 1 percent low-fat milk
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1. Stir panko, 1 teaspoon oil, and pinch cayenne together in 8-inch nonstick skillet until combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and crisp, about 3 minutes. Off heat, transfer panko to bowl and stir in Parmesan.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add Swiss chard and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes; transfer to bowl. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in now-empty pot. Add macaroni and 1½ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring often, until tender; drain macaroni and wipe pot dry with paper towels.
3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add flour, mustard, remaining pinch cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, whisking constantly, until fragrant and mixture darkens slightly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer vigorously, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 6 minutes.
4. Off heat, gradually whisk in Gruyère and cream cheese until completely melted and smooth. Stir in macaroni and wilted Swiss chard and cook over medium-low heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with panko mixture. Serve.
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF
Protein, Fiber, Vitamin A, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc
Cal 530; Total Fat 25g; Sat Fat 10g; Chol 45mg; Sodium 730mg; Total Carbs 56g; Fiber 7g; Total Sugar 9g; Added Sugar 0g; Protein 25g