Noodles and Cheese

April 30, 2012

Need a quick but healthy meal (lunch or dinner) to whip up for the kids? Then here is a great recipe for you! I make this so often that I could make it blindfolded – and still, the kids always tell me: “Mami, make this AGAIN!!” – music to a mother’s ears! And it’s so much better for you than Kraft Dinner (which is SO not good for you!) – health wise and taste wise.

I never actually measure anything when I make this recipe, so all measurements are my best approximations. If you have never made a sauce from scratch, then you may need to try this a few times before you get it perfected, but really it isn’t difficult. And it’s so worth the effort to learn how to make your own cheese sauce!

Ingredients:

2 – 3 cups cooked whole grain pasta – use your favourite or what you have on hand! (Bulk Barn sells quinoa noodles, as well as kamut noodles, and I also use the whole grain varieties available at the grocery store – the ones pictured in the photo above are “Catelli” brand’s “Healthy Harvest”, which are yolk free, cholesterol free and whole wheat – and are cooked in 5 minutes!)

1 Tbsp butter

1 and 1/2 Tbsp white, all-purpose flour

1 and 1/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or milk (I usually save the water that I cook my broccoli in and freeze it until I add it to whatever else I’m using in this step – usually I add chicken broth from PC’s “Blue Menu”, though I do occasionally make my own chicken broth for this and other recipes)

1 cup grated cheese (I like to use Gouda and/or cheddar and/or parmesan, but you can use just about any kind of cheese your kids like)

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable puree (I used a blend of sweet potato and butternut squash puree in the one featured in the above photo – every so often I bake a few sweet potatoes and a butternut squash in the oven and then make the puree and freeze it in 1/2 cup portions so I have it handy for when I need to prepare something quickly! Or, you can add a baby food jar of vegetables!)

1 cup cooked broccoli (or any other vegetable your kids will eat! If you have a very picky eater, puree the broccoli and tell them it’s green cheese in the sauce!)

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to their directions. If you don’t have any left-over cooked broccoli, then add the broccoli to the same pot as the pasta and they should be ready at the same time!

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium to high heat.

Once completely melted, add flour.

Use a whisk to “soak up” the butter with the flour.

Next, remove the saucepan from the heat source and add a VERY SMALL amount of liquid (if you’re using milk, it’s best to first use either some broth or water in this step) and immediately whisk until all the liquid is “soaked up”.  Do not add more liquid until all the liquid is gone!

Return saucepan to heat and keep adding slightly larger amounts of liquid to saucepan, whisking well before each addition of liquid.  (If you want the fancy terminology for this process, it’s called making a “roux”.) Once you have used up all the liquid, add the grated cheese and stir. Add the mustard and vegetable puree and stir. If sauce is too thick, add more liquid and stir. Pour sauce over desired amount of cooked pasta, add cooked broccoli and gently toss. Voila! You’ll never want to serve Kraft Dinner again!

I have also added canned tuna to this recipe (at the very end) and it was super yummy.

I usually end up with left-overs, which I freeze in small portions and then re-heat in the microwave and send to school in a small thermos for my son’s lunch

Have you ever made a cheese sauce from scratch? What’s your kids’ favourite “speedy” meal?