Author Notes: Macaroni and cheese is one of my guilty pleasures. I love eating it, but always feel terrible later when I reflect on how much butter and cheese I just consumed. Enter this magical recipe. I first came across a similar one in an article about getting kids to eat healthy foods (http://shine.yahoo.com/yahoo-motherboard/user-post-the-food-tyrant-vs-white-bean-mac-n-cheese-2464039.html). I tweaked it and made it more "grown-up," and it has now become a staple of my weeknight meal rotation. Also a great meal to make if your pantry is running low on supplies because it requires only a few basic ingredients. —d_ribbens
White Bean and Bell Pepper Puree
- 1/2 red or orange bell pepper
- 1 15 oz can Great Northern beans
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Macaroni and Cheese
- 6-8 cups water
- 13-15 ounces box of macaroni or shell noodles (whole wheat works)
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup shredded strong flavored cheese like sharp cheddar, bleu, feta, etc.
- 1/2 cup shredded melty cheese like fontina, munster, mozzarella, etc
- 1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan or asiago cheese (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pinch crumbled cooked bacon per person (optional!)
- Boil the water to cook the pasta. Generously salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil before adding all of the pasta to the boiling water. Cook pasta until al dente (pasta will have continued cooking when you make the sauce later) and drain, but do not rinse. Leaving a small amount of pasta water in the pot will help thicken the sauce later. Return pasta to the pot.
- While the pasta cooks, make the White Bean and Bell Pepper puree. Open and drain the can of Great Northern beans and add them to a food processor.
- Slice the bell pepper into 1'' strips and place in a microwave-safe bowl, pouring the water in the bowl with the pepper strips.
- Microwave the bell pepper on high for 2-3 minutes until it is steamed and the skin begins to peel away from the flesh.
- Add the contents of the microwave bowl (bell pepper and water) to the food processor. Add the garlic clove, olive oil, salt, and pepper to the food processor. Blend until the puree is smooth and has no chunks. Adjust consistency with additional olive oil or water (your choice).
- Pour the puree over the cooked pasta and stir to coat noodles evenly.
- Stir in most of the shredded cheeses, reserving a small amount to sprinkle on each individual serving. You can adjust the amount of cheese to your taste, or combine more than varieties (I like to use the nubs of cheeses left over from different recipes that collect in my fridge). Cheddar-munster-parmesan is my go-to combination.
- Turn the heat on the stove to low and add the milk slowly, stirring to melt the cheese into a creamy sauce. Add more milk and cheese to reach a desired sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in bowls or deep plates. Sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheese and crumbled bacon onto each individual serving.