Thus, a lightened up version of my favorite, decadent, baked comfort food, macaroni and cheese! With low fat or fat free ingredients, a bit of added vegetables and some cubed ham that was inspired by the macaroni and cheese at our favorite neighborhood haunt, this lightened up version is easier on the waistline but does not skimp on taste. It's perfect!
I started the mac and cheese by boiling some salted water and cutting up a head of broccoli into bite-size florets. I also took a ham steak and cubed it up.
When the water was boiling, I added the elbow macaroni and cooked until al dente. About three minutes before the pasta was finished, I added the broccoli and cooked for three minutes then drained the whole thing.
Meanwhile, on the other burner, I brought some fat free milk to a simmer.
When that was simmering, I added some fat free cream cheese to the milk and whisked it. Here's the thing though, fat free ingredients don't melt that well, because there's just no fat to melt. It's the truth. I had to cut the cream cheese into small pieces and then whisk the heck out of it in order to incorporate it into the milk and thicken the sauce.
Once the cream cheese was incorporated, I added some shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese and whisked. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little bit of cayenne pepper for heat, then reduced heat to low and let it simmer until slightly thickened.
When the pasta and broccoli was cooked and drained, I added it back to the pot, added the ham, and tossed to combine.
I poured the sauce on top and stirred to combine. In a casserole dish that I had sprayed with cooking spray I added the pasta mixture. I topped it with some breadcrumbs, more reduced fat cheddar cheese, and sprayed the top with more cooking spray so it would brown.
Into the oven it went, for about 20 minutes until the cheese was melted and bubbly.
And voila! A baked version of everyones favorite comfort food, without the guilt.
I will be honest, it's no Haley Family Recipe, but in my mind, that's like comparing apples and oranges. The broccoli and ham added lots of flavor and the sauce was creamy and delicious. If you're at all interested in lightened up recipes, or just want to be able to eat Macaroni and Cheese three times a week, definitely try this one. It's delicious!
Here's the recipe!
Skinny Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Ham
- 1 pound package of elbow macaroni
- 1 ham steak (usually found near the sausage/bacon in the supermarket), cut into about 1 cm cubes
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 package of fat free cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, to taste)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until three minutes to being done. Add broccoli and cook for three more minutes. When pasta is al dente, drain both pasta and broccoli and return to the pot. Add cubed ham and toss to combine.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sized pot, heat milk until simmering. Add cream cheese by breaking it up into small pieces and whisking constantly until incorporating. It won't melt well, don't worry. Just whisk, whisk, whisk. When the cream cheese is incorporated, add 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and whisk until melted. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened. When the sauce is thickened, pour over pasta, broccoli, and ham and stir to combine.
- Pour mixture into casserole dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of reduced fat cheddar and top with breadcrumbs. Spray with cooking spray and put in oven for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and breadcrumbs are slightly toasted.