Roasted Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

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I’ve never been much of a runner – I dreaded running “the mile” in middle school and freaked out when I didn’t have my inhaler – so I never thought that I’d attempt to run more than 5 miles in my life, let alone a half marathon. But somehow (probably riding on the high of the Tough Mudder), I ended up signing up for the BAA half marathon and running it a few weeks ago.

I loved the training, because honestly there are few things better than running along the Charles River during the fall in Boston. On the day that I ran 10 miles I felt both triumphant and completely in pain, but it was cool to be running 10 miles at a 9:15 pace. I never thought that would happen.

On the night before the half marathon, I was paralyzingly nervous. I knew that the race was going to hurt. And so I made comfort food: Mac and cheese. I’ve been looking for a good mac and cheese recipe for a long time, and this is the best one I’ve found. It makes a creamy, thick cheese sauce and the roasted veggies are key. Check it out:

For a 9 x 9 pan of mac ‘n cheese, which is 3 or 4 servings, you’ll need:

1 red or yellow pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

3 small mushrooms, diced

1 cup broccoli, cut into small chunks

1.5 cups pasta

1/8 cup butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1.5 T flour

3/4 c milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 t red pepper flaked

1/4 t cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

2 T shredded parmesan cheese

Although the veggies above are the ones that I used and that I recommend, you can get away with using a lot of other things – carrots, squash, asparagus, zucchini, or whatever you have in your fridge. To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and toss your veggies onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water and drain. While the pasta cooks, work on your sauce. Heat the butter in a large skillet and add minced garlic. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, and cook it for about 30 seconds or until it starts to make your kitchen smell amazing. Then sprinkle flour onto the butter and whisk the flour consistently for a full minute. If you stop whisking, the flour may burn, so be careful. This is called a roux and it’s what will thicken your cheese sauce!

After you’ve cooked the flour and butter for a minute and it starts to turn brown (light brown, not burnt!), add milk in a slow stream to the pan. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Once you can tell that the mixture is thick (it will look fluffy), take the pan off of the heat and add in the cheese. Once that’s incorporated, add the red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and veggies. Then mix in the pasta.

When the whole dish is combined, put it into a casserole pan and turn up the oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle the macaroni with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, then put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top becomes golden brown.

That’s it, easy-peasy! I have to admit: I hated running the half marathon. At no point during the race did I think, “Wow, this is so fun!”. But I did feel pretty accomplished afterwards, and despite the fact that I couldn’t move very effectively, I woke up from a 2 hour post-race nap and had another bowl of this delicious pasta. It’s going on my new rotation of recipes.

Enjoy!

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