I am the mac-and-cheese fanatic. If it’s on the menu, I always order it. If it’s not and I think its an omission, I’ll request it. I might not always finish it, but will always indulge my inner child when a fix is available. Most of us crave mac-and-cheese but don’t eat as much as we’d like due to the high fat content. The béchamel sauce, which serves as the base for real macaroni and cheese, is one of the three mother sauces of French cuisine. Also referred to as a roux, it is comprised of butter and flour, which is then cooked in whole milk (note: we haven’t even talked about the cheese yet!). We all know that butter is high in fat, and not ideal for you in large concentrations to begin with, and flour (except the whole wheat kind) is likewise not nutritionally ideal. Adding this combination an already decadent treat is pushing it, especially if you’re pregnant. So how do we make healthy macaroni and cheese and still have it taste naughty and delicious?
My solution was substituting a secret ingredient that will change your views on mac-and-cheese forever: cottage cheese. Yes, you read it correctly – cottage cheese. Low-fat cottage cheese is your saving grace, especially when pregnant. Women need to consume 75 to 100 grams of protein per day when pregnant to properly care for growing mama and baby. One serving of low fat cottage cheese has 25 grams of protein, and nearly half of the four servings of calcium recommended daily.
Seriously, one 16-oz container of low fat cottage cheese puréed in a Cuisinart until creamy will provide a delicious béchamel substitute. The mac-and-cheese recipe below is my go-to anytime I have a craving. When complete, it serves four people the way mac was meant to be enjoyed -- in big spoonfuls -- or seven people on a diet. One serving of my mac-and-cheese has 42 of the 75-100g of protein and 100 percent of the 1200mg of the daily calcium recommended for expecting mothers. If you use whole wheat pasta, this recipe will also provide almost 100 percent of the whole grains needed daily. Talk about a gold medal winning mac-and-cheese!
Recipe courtesy of Janie's Kitchen.
- 1 (16oz.) Container of Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
- 1 Cup of Grated Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
- 1 Cup of Grated Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
- 1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of Black Pepper
- 1 Package of Whole Wheat Pasta
- 1 Tablespoon of Salt (for the pasta water)
1. Place cottage cheese in a blender or mixer and pulse until the curds turn creamy.
2. Grate the cheeses and in batches add to the cottage cheese mixture.
3. Add apple cider vinegar and black pepper.
4. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling add salt and follow the pasta instructions on the package.
5. Before draining the pasta save 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
6. Drain pasta and place back in the large pot.
7. Add ½ cup of the pasta water back into the pasta and 1 large scoop of the cheese mixture and stir. Add another scoop of the cheese mixture and more pasta water if needed. The starchy water allows the pasta and cheese to melt together to create creaminess without butter or milk.
8. Stir in the last cheese mixture and place pasta in a serving bowl.
9. Optional: Add breadcrumbs on top of pasta and place in the oven on broil until the crumbs turn golden brown.
10. Serve warm.