Fall is here which means I’ll soon be craving all sorts of comfort foods! Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorites, but it usually feels more like a “special occasion” dish. Maybe that’s because it’s usually loaded up with tons of cheese and butter without a lot of redeeming health benefits. I can’t justify having it for dinner every night, but sometimes a girl needs her macaroni. Am I right? That’s where this lighter broccoli macaroni and cheese comes in.
So I played around with a traditional recipe, and switched some things up, namely adding broccoli and removing the massive amounts of butter. Ok, there were a few other changes, but read on for the full healthy baked macaroni and cheese recipe!
Lighter Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese
A healthier version of traditional macaroni and cheese.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 8
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
- 16 oz chickpea macaroni noodles (like Banza) or whole wheat noodles
- 1 large head of broccoli, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups of skim milk
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda (or you can sub in more cheddar or a blend of cheddar and mozzarella)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Dash of pepper
- 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add in the macaroni and cook according to the package directions.
- When you have about 5 minutes left of the pasta cooking, add in the broccoli. (Check it out, one less dish to wash!)
- You can boil them together until both are tender.
- In a separate sauce pan, heat up the milk over medium heat.
- Right before it starts to simmer, whisk in the flour and cornstarch slowly and reduce heat to low.
- Slowly add in the cheeses until melted. You can turn the heat back up a bit if you need to.
- Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Combine the sauce and the macaroni in an 8×8 pan.
- Cover with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.
I’ve been loving Banza chickpea noodles and I swear you can’t taste this difference in this recipe! If you can’t find them or you’re not a fan of chickpeas, whole wheat noodles will do the trick.
If you’re short on time or you’re craving a really saucy macaroni and cheese, you can skip the baking part entirely and stop after step 9.
You can also prep everything until step 9 a few hours or a day before. Keep it in the fridge, and plan to add an extra time while you bake it to ensure it gets hot all the way through.
I’ve made this lighter broccoli macaroni and cheese for friends and roommates and I’ve even made it for our family’s Christmas dinner! It’s a perfect side dish or vegetarian main dish. Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite comfort foods and with a recipe like this, I don’t have to save it for special occasions!
What’s your favorite comfort food?
This post was originally published in January, 2014. Updated October 2017.