Betcha Can’t: Healthier Macaroni & Cheese

Pureed carrots. Super-secret ingredient to making a lighter, healthier macaroni and cheese.

OK, so this food fake-out may be as old as your first Richard Simmons exercise video, but it’s so worth sharing. Because, you know, some of you may have been living under a rock (or a pile of fat free cookies) for the last 10 years.

Look, there are people who have to be duped into eating healthier. For some reason, some of us hold on to our bad eating choices with some sort of weird pride that our moms…doctors…wives…husbands…government, have no business telling us what’s good for us. Because, you know, it’s a free country.

Ok, yea, it’s a free country and we are all entitled to bury our faces into buckets of french fries and ice cream, but holding on to a misguided sense of ‘freedom’ to justify eating stuff we know is total crap is about as self-defeating as it gets.

Wow….I jumped up on that soapbox with some conviction this morning!

Every time I whip this up, I am surprised by how creamy it is–even though it calls for very little milk and a fraction of the cheese you’ll find in most mac & cheese recipes. The carrot puree makes an amazingly smooth and satisfying base for the cheese sauce and imparts that distinctively orange color that you’ll remember from the boxed version of your childhood. The sauce would make a great topping for broccoli, cauliflower, or other vegetables that need some trickery for your friends and family to eat. It would even make a great base for a broccoli cheese soup.

Go ahead, get creative with faking it.


1/2 cup gluten free panko bread crumbs

1 TBSP. olive oil

2 cups sliced carrots

1  2/3 cups reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 TBSP. butter

pinch nutmeg

1/3 cup low fat milk

3 cups raw gluten free elbow pasta

Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


1. Heat the oven (or toaster oven) to 350. Toss the panko and olive oil. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast for 4-5 minutes until dark golden brown. Set aside while you make the rest of the dish

2. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, subtracting 2 minutes from the cooking time to allow for a cooking the pasta in the cheese sauce

3. Place the sliced carrots in a shallow covered pan and add about 1″ of water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until carrots are very tender (7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices)

4. Once the carrots are very tender, place them along with the cooking water, in a high powered blender or food processor. Start to blend on low to break them down, gradually turning up the speed until it’s on high. Slowly add the lowfat milk and blend on high until very creamy

5. Pour the pureed carrots in a large saucepan and add the butter, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste

6. Add the cooked pasta and the shredded cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese melts

7. Place a portion in each serving dish (about 1 1/2 cups each for 4 people). Sprinkle with toasted panko break crumbs & serve