So if you read my Adventures in Bread Making: Whole Wheat Oatmeal Sandwich Bread you read my sad little story about how Justin and I only ate Pb+Js and cereal because we had no money. Well cut to a year after that sad venture; we had a little bit more money and we upgraded to pasta. Easy there big spenders. I still hadn’t discovered the wonders of cooking most of your food from scratch so we were living off of Ragu (or when we wanted to spoil ourselves, Prego) and Kraft Dinner. No, I’m not Canadian, I just like calling it Kraft Dinner.
When I would make the mac and cheese I wound up putting in so many veggies and other things that it finally dawned on me, why not just make it from scratch? So, I did. And as usual, it’s frickin’ delicious. I like adding sweet potato to my mac and cheese because it gives it a creaminess allowing you to use less cheese and dairy (if you so desire, which I usually do). Plus, sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A and have a decent amount of fiber. Yeah, they’re carb heavy but I love carbs. They’ve never done me wrong. And last time I checked mac and cheese is pretty much all carbs, so if you’re reading this you should be okay with them too.
1 sweet potato (medium, chopped)
16 oz pasta (I like experimenting with all types of noodles, today is Brad’s Organic Medium Whole Wheat Shells)
8 oz cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1/2 cup onion (chopped)
1/2 cup carrot (grated)
1/2 cup brocolli
4 bacon strips (I use turkey)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp mustard powder
salt, pepper to taste
Baking time: 35 minutes
Preheat oven to 375°
Peel and cube your sweet potato and add it to a pot of boiling water. You could also bake or steam your potato, this just seemed easier to me. About 10 minutes for this way. They’re done when they smoosh in between a pair of tongs or are fork tender.
Strain your potatoes and add it to your food processor or blender with 1 cup of your milk. You can get away with skim here, I did. Blend until smooth, leave lid on and set aside until you’re ready for it.
Bring a pot of water to boil for your noodles, cook them al dente. Cook your bacon–pig, beef, chicken, turkey, veggie–whatever floats your bacon boat. Set it aside on some paper towel when it’s done.
While your bacon is cooking you can prepare your onion, broccoli, carrot, and garlic and grate your cheese. If you’re one of those organized home chefs you will have done this already. Obviously, I am not.
Soften your onions over medium low heat, about 10 minutes. You can go all the way and caramelize them if you feel like devoting the time, I rarely do. The sweetness of the onion pairs nicely with the sweetness of the carrots.
Over low heat, melt your butter in your pan. I use half real butter and half fake. I know, I have an aversion to fat or something. I’m working on it. Add your garlic too.
Add the equal amount of flour. This isn’t the greatest picture of the process, it’s a little pastier looking than this before you add the milk. You try taking a picture and properly whisking something. Cook for about 2 minutes over low heat. We’re making a sort of blond roux here or at least attempting at one.
Add your remaining cup of milk and mix together.
Add your chopped broccoli and grated carrots, along with all your spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium low heat until your veggies have softened and your roux has thickened.
About 5 minutes.
Your pasta is probably done now. Drain and set aside. In the same pot you made your noodles add your sweet potato puree mixture and grated cheese, reserve a couple ounces of cheese.
Followed by your broccoli, carrot roux business. Add more salt here if you need to. The roux should be hot enough to melt your cheese, if it’s not put it back on the stove and heat until melted.
Mix and add your noodles. Now you can stop here. It’s delicious. But if you have time why not bake it? The baking helps infuse some of the flavor into the noodles and also causes the sweet potato to get a light mashed potato consistency. If neither of those things sound good to you then obviously, don’t bake it.
Now add it to any lightly oiled oven safe dish you have on hand. Top with remaining cheese and chopped bacon. Don’t want bacon? Don’t add it. I find turkey bacon is a cheap, easy way to add protein to a meal. To each their own though.
Bake in a 375° oven for 35-45 minutes, until the cheese melts and browns slightly.