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Monday, February 27, 2012

Macaroni and Four Cheeses

Food blogging, like many things, is so much more fun with friends! Caitlin and I continued our weekend tradition of going for a long run and then cooking and baking to keep our minds off of the fact that our legs hurt like crazy. I couldn't resist photo-documenting our culinary adventure for The Reluctant Home Cook. We decided to make Ellie Krieger's slimmed-down Macaroni and Four Cheeses. The base of the silky sauce is lowfat milk and frozen winter squash (no butter and flour necessary!). We added just enough cheese to give the sauce additional body and flavor without adding too many calories and saturated fat. Smoked chipotle power and crushed red pepper flakes added more layers of flavor and just the right amount of heat. Sure, we're not going to fool anyone that this is real-deal mac and cheese, but the squash sauce has an interesting souffle-like quality to it that won't sit like a brick in your stomach after dinner! So dig in and get your guilt-free mac 'n cheese fix with some extra veggies to boot.

First, just boil up a box of some elbow macaroni pasta. We used Barilla Plus for extra protein. Drain the cooked pasta and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

The only annoying thing about this recipe is defrosting the frozen squash in the milk - it took us forever! At one point, I got a little too aggressive in breaking up chunks of frozen squash, and then orange milk splattered over the stove. Caitlin kindly took over stirring for me. I think it would help if you fully defrost the squash before adding it to the milk. You could also roast up some butternut squash, puree it, and then add it to the milk. I think this would be delicious!

Once you get the milk and squash incorporated and heated until almost simmering, you can add three cheeses (all except the parmesan for the topping) and the spices.

Then, pour that cheesy mixture over the cooked macaroni and stir in it.

Sprinkle the parmesan and Panko mixture over the top of the macaroni. Bake it for about 20 minutes and then, if you have time, stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown it up. We were so hungry that I skipped this step (i.e. I totally forgot to do this).

And this is what happens when four hungry people dig in and enjoy! Thanks to Omar and Caitlin for coming over for a wonderful evening of food and friends.

Macaroni and Four Cheeses
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
Serves 8


  • Cooking spray
  • One 16 ounce box elbow macaroni
  • Two 10 ounce packages frozen pureed winter squash, defrosted
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 1/3 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (we used reduced fat)
  • 2/3 cup granted Monterey Jack 
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to the prepared baking dish. 

Meanwhile, place the defrosted squash and milk in a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once it is incorporated, turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar, Jack cheese, ricotta, salt, mustard, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine.

Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the cheeses are bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

Per serving (2 cups): 390 calories, 11 grams total fat, 56 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, excellent source of calcium, folate and manganese, good source of fiber and iron.


  1. I am always available to help you cook and experiment Alicia! All you have to do is call.

    1. Sounds good! Thanks so much for coming over this weekend :)

  2. Omar, I must say, you hold a great plate of food for photography as well...very multi-talented!