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Rotini and Cheese With A Primavera Twist

April 10, 2009

I have been jonesing for homemade mac and cheese ever since The Pioneer Woman posted this sinfully delicious looking recipe for hers.  It is, I believe, a moral imperative.  But being me, and being that we are going to Savannah in two weeks for our Anniversary and are going to do the Paula Deen tour, I felt compelled to lighten it up.   So here’s my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Roundup, hosted this week by Marye of Baking Delights.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat rotini (and you can use any pasta, I just had rotini)
  • 8 oz. 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese (the real deal), shredded
  • 4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, cubed
  • 1/3 cup Smart Balance spread (this is partly water, so you’ll need to use more of it than of the flour)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2.5 cups of skimmed milk
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 sweet red peppers or roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 4 jars baby food squash (the winter squash–now if you’re lucky, your grocery will have it pureed in the freezer section–mine doesn’t)
  • cayenne pepper
  • paprika
  • salt
  • seasoning salt
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • buttery spray

Directions:

  1. Chop everything and thaw the peas in a collander with hot water.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add in your pasta.
  3. Cook for approximately 5-8 minutes–you want pasta that’s still a bit too chewy to eat as is because it will cook more in the oven.
  4. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.
  5. In a large dutch oven, add Smart Balance spread and melt over medium low heat.
  6. Meanwhile, turn your oven to 350 degrees to preheat.
  7. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and whisk to combine.  Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly for approximately 5 minutes.  This will make your roux, which is the base for your cheese sauce.  You may need to add a little of the milk to thin it out enough to cook and bubble.
  8. Gradually whisk in the remainder of the milk until fully incorporated.
  9. Add 2 heaping teaspoons of ground mustard, mix well and allow mixture to cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Take a moment to beat your egg.  Add about a quarter cup of the gravy like mixture into the egg, beating constantly until mixture is cooled.  This is tempering the egg and prevents it from scrambling as it would if you dumped it straight into the sauce.
  11. Add tempered egg to the sauce and mix well.  Turn heat down to low.
  12. Now add in all the cheeses and stir until everything is melty and smooth.
  13. Next up is seasoning.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, and as much ground pepper as you like.
  14. Add the pureed squash and stir well.
  15. Add the pasta and stir well.
  16. Add the vegetables and stir well.
  17. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.  I baked placed mine on a baking sheet in the oven in case it bubbled over.
  18. Sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs over the top and spritz thoroughly with Buttery Spray.
  19. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

I fixed this intending it to be an entire meal, so it makes 6 servings at 564 calories and 23 grams of fat per bowl.

Printable version.

This recipe on Key Ingredient.

This recipe on FoodBuzz.

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