This Healthy Vegetable Mac & Cheese recipe is a delicious, easy, weeknight dinner or side dish made in 25 minutes that your kids will love! Use your favorite vegetables to make this veggie mac & cheese suit your family's tastes!
This post is sponsored by Cabot Cheese and Healthy Aperture. As always, all opinons, photos and recipes are my own!
If you are a parent, you probably make and consume your fair share of mac and cheese. I know I do, because my kids love it, and making homemade mac and cheese is so easy.
I mean, what's not to love about a bowl of cheese-covered-pasta comfort?! So I decided to go with it and created this vegetable mac and cheese recipe to add a little nutrient boost to my kids' favorite dish!
This Healthy Veggie Mac & Cheese recipe is a delicious, easy, weeknight dinner or side dish made in 25 minutes that your whole family will love! The best part? You can use your favorite kind of pasta and veggies to customize this vegetable mac and cheese to your family's tastes!
Vegetable Mac & Cheese: Ingredients
There are only 8 ingredients in this vegetable mac and cheese recipe! Let's chat about them and possible substitutions before we dive into how to make the recipe!
- Elbow macaroni. I have used both regular and whole wheat elbows to make this veggie mac and cheese with great results! Really, you can use any type of pasta! I prefer using shapes like wheels, bowties, rotini, etc. because the cheese settles in to every nook and cranny! You can also use gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free!
- Olive oil. Any neutral oil works great here! It's just to sauté the vegetables, so pick your favorite!
- Vegetables. Use 2 cups of your favorite veggies! In this particular batch of vegetable macaroni and cheese I used 1 cup broccoli (cut small) and 1 cup shredded zucchini.
- Other ideas: yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, onions, peas, tomatoes, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc.
- Butter. This recipe calls for salted butter! Unsalted butter works equally well, you may just need to add a touch more salt in the end!
- Flour. All-purpose flour is used to thicken the cheese sauce. I don't recommend omitting it! However you can substitute a gluten-free all purpose flour for a gluten-free option!
- Garlic Powder. The garlic powder really adds a subtle but important depth of flavor to to this dish! You can also used minced garlic, just sauté it with the vegetables!
- Whole Milk. Any percentage of milk works well in this vegetable mac and cheese recipe! Just remember, the higher the fat content, the creamier your mac and cheese will be.
- Sour cream. Just like the milk, any fat content works in this recipe, but the creaminess of the final product will be impacted based on your choice. I also use Greek Yogurt quite often with great results!
How to make Vegetable Mac and Cheese
Ok! Now that we have discussed the ingredients needed to make this veggie mac and cheese, let's dive into how to make it!
Start by cooking your pasta of choice! Always add about ¼ tsp salt to the water used to cook the pasta for the best flavor! When it's finished, drain but do not rinse the noodles. The cheese adheres to the macaroni better if it is not rinsed!
While the pasta is cooking, sauté the vegetables in olive oil until they are fully cooked. The amount of time needed will depend on the veggies you choose. This is when the vegetables are cooked, so it's important to make sure to cook them to your liking!
Make Cheese Sauce
Once the veggies are cooked (or while they're cooking) make the cheese sauce. Start by making a roux with the butter and dry ingredients. Then whisk in the milk and sour cream and finally add the cheese.
Use quality cheese!
The flavor of your vegetable mac and cheese relies heavily on the quality of the cheese used to make the sauce! As I have discussed before (in this cheesy pretzel bite recipe, this cheesy sausage gnocchi and this spaghetti squash mac and cheese recipe), we adore Cabot cheddars!
For the very best veggie mac and cheese, you need to choose a cheese that is strong, flavorful and creamy! The taste, texture and quality of Cabot cheese is absolute perfection! All Cabot cheddars are naturally aged, naturally gluten-free and lactose-free! I recommend using any of their cheddar cheese varieties (especially Vermont Sharp, and Seriously Sharp)!
Not only is Cabot cheese amazing, but I love supporting businesses that support small farms and families, which is exactly what Cabot is all about! Cabot is a co-operative owned by 1,000 farm families throughout New England & New York and 100% of profits go back to the farmers!
Put it together
Once the sauce is thick and the noodles and veggies are cooked, it's time to put it all together. Add the cooked macaroni into the pot with the cheese sauce and stir.
Next, add the cooked vegetables and stir gently until everything is combined!
Serve the vegetable mac and cheese immediately for the best taste and texture! You can leave the pot covered to keep the veggie mac and cheese warm while you finish preparing the rest of the meal (if serving this as a side dish and not the main event). Here are some dishes that would pair beautifully with this veggie mac and cheese:
- It would make a fantastic side dish to this balsamic pot roast (one of our favorite main dishes)!
- Serve it alongside this avocado chicken salad!
- For a truly kid-friendly dinner, serve it with these healthy Sloppy Joes!
How do you store Vegetable Mac & Cheese?
Store any leftover veggie mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days!
Place the mac and cheese in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and warm for 30-60 seconds, or until it's heated through. You may need to add a splash of milk to restore the original creaminess, because the cheese sauce will continue to soak into the macaroni as it cools!
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Healthy Vegetable Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 8 oz elbow macaroni, uncooked ( 1 ¾ cups - (regular, whole wheat, chickpea, etc.)
- salted water
Cook the macaroni:
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Be sure to add ¼ tsp salt to the water used to boil the noodles.
- Drain, do NOT rinse, and set aside.
- While macaroni is cooking, add 1 TBS olive oil and diced/shredded veggies to a medium sauté pan and sprinkle with salt.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until the veggies are soft but slightly firm.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
Make the cheese sauce:
- Mix flour, sea salt, and garlic powder together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- When butter is melted, add flour mixture and whisk to combine.
- Cook for 1 minute until mixture is slightly brown.
- Add 1 cup milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
- Add sour cream (or Greek yogurand whisk until smooth.
- Cook on medium-high heat until the mixture is thickened (about 3 minutes), stirring occasionally. Do not let it boil.
- Once mixture is thick (sticks to the back of the spatula), reduce heat to low and add cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. Taste and add more salt/seasoning if desired.
Put it together:
- Add cooked elbow macaroni to the pot of cheese sauce and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed.
- Add sautéed veggies and stir. Serve warm!
Veggie suggestions: In this recipe, I used 1 cup shredded zucchini and 1 cup diced broccoli. Other ideas: yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, onions, peas, tomatoes, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. You may need to add another 1-2 TBS of milk to make the mac and cheese creamy again after storing!
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