All kids love macaroni and cheese. Well, not just kids… let’s be honest. Cheese and noodle casseroles started appearing in medieval cookbooks – so yeah, you’re not alone in a love for this wonderful dish. Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan, serving “macaroni pie” at a state dinner in 1802. The recipe by today’s moniker appeared in 1824.
But it doesn’t need to be a completely unhealthy meal. With this Food and Wine recipe there’s some good news: mixing carrot puree with the cheddar cheese creates a wonderful source of vitamin A while reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. And, it’s still tasty.
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with the zest and juice and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the zest. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the carrot puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the cheese and cook, stirring, until very creamy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.
- Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.