Macaroni and Cheese is the ultimate mac daddy of all comfort foods. (yeah, pun totally intended). Carb-loaded pasta covered in melty-gooey cheese. What’s not to love? With so many options and variations of Macaroni and Cheese, I got to thinking…wouldn’t it be fun to invite a bunch of friends over and ask them to bring their version of macaroni?
And so that’s what we did. We encouraged our friends to think outside the blue cardboard box and bring their version of mac ‘n cheese to share.
The party was a blast! Everyone brought a totally different type of mac ‘n cheese: Buffalo Chicken Mac, Mac with Andouille Sausage and Red Sauce, a Ragu with Spinach, White Beans and Macaroni Noodles, and an original recipe mac with a Mexican flair that the couple named “the Macarena Macaroni”.
I made Dried Fig, Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnut Mac although I took the liberty to use rotini pasta rather than macaroni. I figured, it’s my party and I can change the noodles if I want to (while humming Leslie Gore’s song).
We even had a macaroni dessert that tasted like a bread pudding , drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with mixed berries, completely naughty but nice. The Blood Orange Cosmo was inspired from a crafted cocktail served at the Macaroni Grill.
Macaroni and Cheese is certainly not typically thought of as a “health food”. But here are a few ways to make mac with more nutritional muscle:
- Use whole wheat noodles. Trust me, with all the melted cheese, your tasters will not know the difference
- Prepare your mac using part-skim cheeses and low-fat milk and skip the margarine to lessen the fat content.
- Throw in some healthy mix-ins such as black olives, beans, chopped bell peppers, steamed broccoli, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and onions, spinach, etc.
- To “sneak in” even more veggies, a bit of cooked pureed butternut squash or canned pumpkin can be mixed in without affecting the taste.
Dried Fig, Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnut Mac (adapted from recipe in Family Circle Jan '12)
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (I purchased from Local Harvest Grocery, Kirkwood, MO)
- 1 pound pasta (I used rotini)
- 2 Tbsp. salted butter
- 1 Tbsp. flour (I used stoneground whole wheat from Shirk's Country Market, Centertown, MO)
- 2 logs goat cheese, 8 ounces total (Heartland Creamery, Newark, MO)
- 1 cup dried figs, sliced
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (Hammons, Stockton, MO)
- Heat milk with rosemary in a small saucepan over low heat for about 20 minutes; discard rosemary.
- Meanwhile cook pasta according to box directions to al dente.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour, and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in infused milk, bring to a low boil, then simmer for about 3 minutes. Stir in goat cheese.
- Combine pasta, sauce mixture, toasted walnuts and figs.
- Top with a few bits of goat cheese and serve.