This lightened-up mac and cheese utilizes nutrient-rich legume pasta (made from chickpeas, lentils or black beans) because it contains about double the protein and triple the fiber compared to most standard noodles. I kick things up a few notches by baking it in a muffin tin to create portion-sized delights that are crunchy on the outside and ooey-gooey cheesy on the inside.
- One 14-ounce box elbow macaroni pasta (either chickpea, lentil, bean or whole-grain pasta)
- 2¼ cups low-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 5 drops hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 10 to 12 ounces (or 2½ to 3 cups) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Cook the macaroni according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
3. While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce: In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of the milk with the soy sauce, onion powder, nutmeg, dry mustard, paprika, bay leaf, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Place the mixture over medium heat, and cook until it comes to a gentle simmer.
4. In a small bowl or cup, mix the cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup milk. Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine. Return the sauce to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thick.
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat, discard the bay leaf and add the shredded cheese. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and no lumps remain. Add the butter to the cheese sauce and stir until it is completely melted and combined. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir until everything is coated.
6. Liberally mist 1-2 standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Split the macaroni mixture among 20 muffin tins (about 1/4 cup mac and cheese in each). Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the tops and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the tops are slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes so the muffins have a chance to firm up before serving. After muffins have slightly cooled, carefully remove by loosening up the sides and enjoy.