Sorry my friends. This may not seem fair to you that I post a mac and cheese recipe in the middle of the summer, while you’re all in your swimsuits, but I promise you I tried to make this a bit healthier. I did, I really did try. I used whole wheat pasta, I used extra lean ground beef, skim milk and I added green peppers, see I added veggies to this otherwise not so healthy dish. So you see, I did try, I honestly did!
And this is why I call this a grown up mac and cheese, because it is a bit healthier and it has veggies, though this is not to say that a kid couldn’t enjoy this dish. I’m pretty sure kids would love this, they wouldn’t even be able to tell the pasta is whole wheat, or that there are onions and green peppers. All they’d see and taste is the delicious cheese and meaty macaroni.
To tell you the truth I’m not a huge mac and cheese fan, but this mac and cheese is a bit different and I quite enjoyed it. The addition of ground beef brings this dish to a whole new dimension. For the top crust I used panko breadcrumbs and fresh Parmesan cheese which I thought gave this mac and cheese a really nice crunch. My cheeses of choice for the cheese sauce were extra sharp cheddar cheese and gouda.
- 1 lb whole wheat elbow pasta, cooked according to box instructions
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1¾ cup skim milk
- 1½ cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1½ cup gouda, shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
- In a skillet heat olive oil and cook the onion and bell pepper together until onion is soft and translucent. Add ground beef and cook until it’s no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Drain if desired.
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- In a saucepan melt butter, whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Stir in milk and cook for another 5 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg if desired. Remove from heat and stir in the gouda and cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese has melted. Fold in macaroni.
- Spoon out ½ of the macaroni mixture in a 9×13 inch casserole dish then top with ½ of the meat mixture, layer with remaining macaroni, and remaining meat mixture. Top with panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden.