Vegetable Packed Mac N Cheese

Mac n cheese is a real comfort meal in the Cooking Up A Treat household but for something so comforting it actually involves more effort than the traditional thoughts of ‘comfort food’. It is the food of exhaustion but of wanting to reward and nourish, I suppose, and that makes those extra few moments of putting the dish together completely worth it; you get leftovers the following day to make it quick and comforting so it sort of balances out and gives you a day to recover from all the woes that led you to mac n cheese in the first place.

There is no real consistency in the mac n cheese that gets cooked here though; sometimes there is a lot of cheese, other times it includes meat and sometimes there is barely a vegetable contained within it. The basics are considered and anything else that gets added directly into it is a bonus but that entirely depends on when the food shopping was last done or our general mood. The versatility of a mac n cheese is certainly one of its greatest strengths.

Top of mac n cheeseIngredients (For Four)

  • Tablespoon of margarine
  • Plain flour
  • Approx. a pint of semi-skimmed milk
  • Grated cheese (quantity depends on how cheesy you want the sauce and how much you want on top). Have a healthy block to hand and use what suits you and your tastes
  • 3x Salad tomatoes, quartered
  • A finely chopped onion
  • A large handful of mushrooms
  • 3x large carrots diced
  • A bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • Four portions of dried macaroni
  • Salt, pepper, mustard, general seasoning
  • (I like to put broccoli and spinach in there too – this one happens to have some bacon in but is completely optional or can be replaced with a meat-free alternative)

Grilled cheese and pasta insides of mac n cheese on a plate


The Cheese Sauce

  1. Put the margarine into a small pan and let it melt
  2. Add some plain flour in and mix together to make a soft sort ball and turn the heat down
  3. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of milk into the mixture at a time and ensure it is stirred well
  4. Eventually this will become a smooth and thick white sauce
  5. Take this completely off the heat and add in some pepper, mustard and the cheese making sure you stir well before letting it settle, cool and thicken slightly

The Pasta and Vegetables

  1. Put the pasta into some boiling water with a pinch of salt
  2. Add in the carrots, and any other vegetables, when there is about five minutes of pasta cooking time left just to help soften it a little
  3. Drain it, pour some cold water over it to stop the cooking process and set aside

The Bacon and Other Vegetables

  1. Fry the bacon in a small frying pan
  2. Add the onion and mushroom into the pan and fry on a low heat until lightly golden. If you are not using bacon or anything that gives off fat/oil then add a little oil into the pan to cook the onion and mushroom
  3. Add in the pepper and tomatoes to help mix everything together and take that bite off of it completely

Mixing It Together

  1. Put your grill on a very high heat setting before you set about putting the dish together
  2. Mix the bacon mixture and the pasta mixture together and then pour it into the tray you are using to cook. If you are wanting to use something like spinach here is the time to do it as it will get mixed through well but not end up overcooked
  3. Pour the cheese sauce mixture, after stirring, evenly over the mixture. This should allow for the sauce to sink through the layers but if you are in any doubt give it a poke around to help it all get coated evenly
  4. Put grated cheese on top and then pop under the grill
  5. I usually find that it needs at least fifteen minutes under the grill but usually leave it for more like 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it and that it is not starting to catch and look for that perfect golden melted cheese look

Side view of mac n cheeseStorage/Reheating

Having mac n cheese for leftover is great and super simple to do. It often gets consumed with salad, coleslaw or similar light items in the Cooking Up A Treat household.

  1. Wait for the dish to cool entirely and remember it has been under the grill so the dish itself may remain hotter than appearances suggest. Approach with caution and at the beginning use an oven glove or similar to double-check the dish heat before handling glove free
  2. If you are wanting to reheat the dish the following day then cover it well with foil and pop this into the fridge. Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to reheat it as otherwise it tends to get quite shocked by the heat of a pre-heated 180° oven. It will need about 30 minutes in the oven to be piping hot
  3. If you are intending to eat it cold or take it to work with you in a tub the following day then cut it and/or serve it into a tupperware tub before you put it in the fridge. I find this works better than trying to cut it when it is super cold the following day. If you are intending to microwave it then leave the tub out of the fridge for 15 minutes and then put it in on full blast (standard home microwave) for 3-4 minutes

More mac n cheese

What are your favourite ingredients to put into a mac n cheese? I would love to hear all about your favourite combinations in the comments below.

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