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Vegetarian Recipes Weekly: Vegetable-stuffed Macaroni Cheese

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A steaming-hot pasta bake is always welcome after a long day  of hard working - or procrastinating, for that matter.

This one will not only stuff you with melted cheese but also provide you with your five-a-day vitamins. Can you really say "no" to that?

The recipe blends a mixture of three different cheeses, plus added punch from fresh vegetables and a crunchy breadcrumb topping to create an indulgent slice of the ultimate comfort food. 

Serves 6

Ingredients:

375g Macaroni (If using fresh pasta, cook according to packet instructions rather than recipe requirements)

1 leek, chopped and roughly diced

125g Broccoli florets, chopped

125g Cauliflower florets, chopped

2 Carrots, peeled and sliced into batons

10 Cherry tomatoes, halved

500ml Semi-skimmed milk

40g Plain flour

40g Butter

1 tablespoon mustard (English or Dijon is preferable)

1 heaped teaspoon Paprika

100g Extra-mature cheddar cheese, grated

50g Gruyere, grated

50g Red Leicester cheese, grated

1 Large tomato, sliced

150g Breadcrumbs, for sprinkling

Salt and Pepper to taste

How to Make

1) Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C/375°F. Boil a pan of water, adding a pinch of salt for taste.

2) Add the elbow macaroni to the pan of boiling, salted water. Bring it to the boil for five minutes. While the pasta is boiling, peel and slice the carrots, and chop the broccoli, leeks and cauliflower. Halve the cherry tomatoes and slice the tomato, setting these aside for later.

3) Add the sliced vegetables to the pan and cook for a further eight minutes. While the vegetables and macaroni are cooking, make the sauce. 

4) To make the sauce, melt together the butter and flour over a gentle heat in a saucepan, to make a roux, whisking constantly. Ensure no lumps form in the mixture.

5) Gradually add the milk, whisking gently and making sure that the sauce doesn't boil, otherwise it'll curdle. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) Once the sauce thickens, turn the heat down and add roughly 2/3rds of the grated cheeses, mustard and paprika and cook on a simmering heat for five minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of milk and whisk gently.

6) Drain the pasta and vegetables thoroughly, mix in the halved cherry tomatoes, before adding it all to a ovenproof dish. Take the sauce off the heat and pour it evenly over the pasta and vegetable mix, before stirring the mixture together to ensure an even coating of the sauce over it. 

7) Sprinkle roughly half the breadcrumbs over the top of the bake. Flatten the mix down with a spoon and place the tomato slices evenly down on top. Finally, top the tomato slices by sprinkling down the rest of the grated cheese and breadcrumbs.

8) Bake in the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes or until the cheese melts and the gratin top turns a crispy golden brown. Serve with toasted bruschetta, olive oil and wilted spinach.

For a unique variant on the dish, consider making a tex-mex mac and cheese by swapping the broccoli and cauliflower florets for 250g of mixed bell peppers, sliced into thin strips. Don’t boil the peppers with the pasta, instead roast them for five minutes with a drizzle of oil.

Swap the gruyere and Red Leicester for a good quality Monterrey Jack or Pepperjack cheese, plus a heaped tablespoon of sour cream, and add as normal. If you want a spicy heat kick, add a teaspoon of chilli powder with your paprika. Serve with sweetcorn relish and salsa.

Don't forget to invite your favourite people... or eat the six serves on your own. No regrets! 

Do you have a vegan/vegeterian recipe you want published? Just make it, take a picture, eat it and send the recipe to Food.Assisstant@thenationalstudent.com

Last week: The Satisfying Smokey Chilli

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