Another recipe that is made (and requested) all the time here. This one also relies on having some puréed veggies in your freezer (although if you don’t, it’s pretty easy to do these up rather simply). However, having purées, sauces, and other basics already made (such as homemade gnocchi, rissoles, and veggies patties) makes such a huge difference to making (relatively) healthy meals and living frugally.
The idea for this recipe was inspired by Jessica Seinfeld’s pumpkin mac and cheese. Actually, quite a few of my own recipes have been influenced by the concept of adding veggie purées , thanks Jessica! Initially I tried adding pumpkin to my own version, but the pumpkin was just too… pumpkiny for Harry, even though it was a winner as far as Ivan and I were concerned! Undeterred, however, I started experimenting with different vegetables until I found a combination that was both liked by Harry, and one I was satisfied had enough veggies in it.
1 tbs butter
1 heaped tbs plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
40g of Parmesan, grated
150g Colby cheese, grated*
150g puréed cauliflower**
200g mashed sweet potato***
4 tbs cream (optional)
Before the cooking starts, put a large pot of water into boil. Now to the sauce…
To begin, we make a roux. Start by setting a small to medium sized pot over a medium heat, melt the butter and add your flour. I use a small whisk to mix this, as I will continue to use the whisk through adding the other ingredients. Cook for a few minutes, until your roux is starting to brown a little.
Next step is to add your milk. Take the pot off the heat and pour in a little, making sure to whisk the milk in well (you’ll get a little steam but it will disappear quickly), keep whisking away until you have a smooth thick paste. Add a little more milk and repeat, taking care to whisk away any lumps each time, repeat until all your milk had been added. You then want to simmer your sauce for about ten minutes in order for the floury taste to disappear.
By this point (depending on your stove I suppose), your water should be boiling and you can add your pasta. Add a little salt, and give it a quick stir.
While the sauce is simmering away, you can add your mustard (it really gives it such a good, but subtle, kick) and then cheese to the sauce. Carefully stir until all the cheese has melted. Once incorporated, add your cauliflower and sweet potato. The addition of the these vegetables does mean that you won’t end up with a silky smooth mac and cheese, but rather quite a thick sauce. At this point I add in cream to improve the texture a little, how much you add depends on your own preference.
Once, your pasta is cooked and drained, and sauce complete, mix them together and serve!
Well, that’s the basic recipe, but we often change it up a bit. My approach to food is influenced by a lot of different things: packing in extra nutrition, the fact that I don’t eat meat and the rest of my family does, and that Ivan and I generally like more flavourful foods, to name a few. So here’s a list of some variations….
Half a cup of shredded or finely chopped chicken and/or 1/4 cup chopped bacon. I hope it goes without saying these should be cooked first!****
Okay, what kind of pasta are you using? Instead of using your standard durum wheat, why not try a pasta made from corn, whole grain, quinoa, rice or spelt?
Ivan and I pretty much always add some caramelised onion and goats cheese too(the soft kind, so it melts in). As I don’t season the mac and cheese (kids!), it can be a little bland so this really transforms it.
Never made caramelised onion? It’s ridiculously simple. If we want to add it, I start my preparations before all the steps above. To begin, finely slice one brown onion, add a little oil and butter to a frypan over low heat. Sauté gently, stirring occasionally while making your mac and cheese. Traditionally, caramelised onions are made without the assistance of sugar, as a long slow simmer will allow the onions own natural sugars to release, however when I’m time poor (pretty much always), I add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar (depending on how big the onion is), after the onions have relaxed, to speed up the process. Be careful not to add too much sugar or else you’ll just end up with candied onion strips.)
There you have it, Magic Mac. Side note… I found Magic Mike deeply depressing…
*You could replace both cheeses with equal amounts of tasty cheese, but Parmesan and Colby are usually what I have on hand.
** I steam then purée the cauliflower, then freeze in small batches.
*** I wrap whole sweet potatoes in foil then bake them until they are soft and squishy (170c for about an hour and a half should do it). Once done and cooled, just slice them down the middle and it’s a cinch to scoop out all the mushy flesh, made so much sweeter by the roasting (as opposed to if you were to steam it). Again, I freeze this in small batches.
**** I would love this to go without saying, but I only advocate using free range meat. If we can’t afford humane meat, we don’t buy meat. This is a hard concept for some people, but a non-negotiable for us. And my meat eating husband feels the same as his vego wife.