CREAMY CARROT MAC -N- CHEESE

Creamy Carrot Mac and Cheese /momskitchenhandbook.comI’m often asked what my routine is for getting dinner on the table. It’s sort of a shoot-from-the-hip style that’s based on what’s in the fridge, what looks good at the market, and most importantly, what I’m in the mood to cook and eat (the major upside of being at the helm of the stove). I’m not nearly as ordered as many of you. There is little advanced planning; no “sandwich night” or “crock pot Wednesday” or “meatless Monday.” Once in a blue moon we do indulge in “anything night,” which means I’m too tuckered out to cook and the kids eat whatever they consider dinner while I avert my eyes.

All that being said, I do have a number of dishes in my repertory that rotate in on a pretty regular basis. Included is this Creamy Carrot Mac and Cheese, which is usually made at the request of my youngest, Virginia, who is a big fan

Creamy Carrot Mac and Cheese is adapted from a recipe by Jeremy Fox, a chef who developed a reputation for working magic with vegetables. He launched the Napa Valley restaurant, Ubuntu, a number of years ago to great acclaim and Michelin stars, not exactly common for a vegetarian eatery.

Unlike classic mac and cheese, which starts with a white sauce into which you melt loads of cheese, this version is built on a base of cooked carrots that you whirl with low-fat milk into a creamy puree. Add pasta, sharp Cheddar and chopped chives and bake until the flavors meld. The result is a mac and cheese that gives you a sizable amount of vegetables in every serving. Swapping out some of the cheese for carrots also means it’s markedly lower in fat and calories than the traditional approach. Make it with whole grain pasta, and you add fiber as well.

This dish could be construed as one of those “sneaky” types: a vehicle for getting veggies into the kids. The vibrant orange of the carrots could certainly masquerade as cheese and the taste could probably get past a picky eater. This sort off vegetable trickery, a topic I wrote about recently here, is something about which I have mixed feelings. What I do know is that a lightened up mac and cheese makes sense as the cold weather rolls in, the opportunities for indulging ratchet up, and lives get busier. Or, you could always just throw up your hands and have an “anything night.”

CREAMY CARROT MAC AND CHEESE

1 pound carrots, peeled (about 4 large carrots)
2/3 cup water
5 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups packed)
12 ounces penne pasta (about 4 cups dried)
1 1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the carrots very thin, put them in a medium pot and add the water and the salt. Bring to a boil, drop the heat so the water boils gently, and cover with a lid. Cook until the carrots are tender enough to mash with a fork, about 25 minutes.


While the carrots cooks, bring a big pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. Reserve about a quarter cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta. Put the cooked pasta back into the pot.

When the carrots are tender, put them along with any remaining carrot cooking liquid into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the milk and puree until silky smooth. You can also do this with a blender.

Stir the carrot puree into the pasta. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the cheese and add the remainder to the pasta along with the chives, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of the pasta water.

Transfer pasta to a baking dish that’s about 8 x 11 inches. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes. If you want the cheese brown and crispy on top, set under the broiler just before serving.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

Adapted from a recipe by chef Jeremy Fox in Food and Wine magazine

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16  Comments

Comments

  1. Christine
    11.21.2011 at 10:59 AM #

    Yumm, I’ll have to try this! I also wanted to let you know that the last two times I have logged onto your website, my antivirus has popped up to tell me a virus is trying to download onto my computer :(

    • katiemorford
      11.21.2011 at 5:56 PM #

      Thanks for letting me know….I will look into it.

  2. Jennifer
    11.21.2011 at 12:11 PM #

    I can’t wait to try this one out. Mac ‘n Cheese is the all-time-favorite dish for one of my kids and I look forward to mixing it up a bit (and to feel good about the infused veggies to boot). I welcome any and all variations on the Mac ‘n Cheese theme!!

  3. 11.26.2011 at 2:43 AM #

    This sounds just the thing to pass along to my friend with vegetable-phobic children. Thanks for sharing this simple and healthy take on an American staple.

    • katiemorford
      11.26.2011 at 10:11 AM #

      Your welcome…hope it goes over well with the veggie-phobic crowd!

  4. Liz
    01.12.2013 at 8:47 PM #

    This looks like a great recipe, thanks for sharing. How freezable is it?

    • katiemorford
      01.13.2013 at 9:23 AM #

      I find Mac cheese freezes well if properly wrapped.

  5. Ceci
    02.04.2013 at 6:31 PM #

    Thanks for this recipe! The family really liked the taste and I loved that it cut out so much of the fat found in traditional mac and cheese recipes.

  6. 10.10.2013 at 9:19 PM #

    I find this works well with any number of veggie purees – squash of all kind and cauliflower to name just a couple, but any of the more bland vegetables will do.

    • katiemorford
      10.11.2013 at 7:40 AM #

      Great suggestion Amy. I often do this with butternut squash as well.

  7. felicia beanum
    10.14.2013 at 11:15 AM #

    I made this last night and the kids loved it. Kept the vegetable ingredients a secret for the first bite. I didn’t have enough carrots so i added cauliflower & small amount of yams. Delish!!! Thanks Katie!

    • katiemorford
      10.15.2013 at 9:03 PM #

      That made my day!

  8. Sarah
    10.24.2013 at 11:53 AM #

    I made this last night and it was a very big hit! I made the puree about a week ago and froze it, which worked very well and made it a quicker dinner to prepare.

    • katiemorford
      10.24.2013 at 9:14 PM #

      Hi Sarah

      Glad your crew liked it. Good idea making the carrot puree ahead of time.

  9. cooking daughter
    10.27.2013 at 4:50 PM #

    Such a delicious recipe! Thanks for helping me cut calories and fat, yet still stay happy. I was skeptical at first but the end result was great.

    • katiemorford
      10.27.2013 at 5:59 PM #

      Ahhh…that’s so nice to hear. Cutting calories and fat AND boosting your veggies. All plus, plus.

      Katie

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