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Buffalo Blue Mac & Cheese

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John and I have a running joke that we eat a lot of “kid food” in our house (this started before Lily was born, by the way). I make pizza every Friday night, John grills burgers on a regular basis throughout the summer, and he also makes some killer baked chicken fingers (I should encourage him to write a post for the blog!).

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Then there’s macaroni and cheese. I’m a bit ashamed to admit just how much I love this quintessential kid food. Stovetop, baked, plain, or gussied up with fun additions like pumpkin, sweet potato, and lobster… there’s a special place in my heart for it all. After every prenatal appointment, I treated myself to a bit from the Whole Foods hot bar, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I passed down my mac & cheese love to Lily ;).

I recently made one of Cooking Light’s most recent mac & cheese recipes, and unfortunately we were underwhelmed with the rather bland flavor. What we did like was the silky smooth cheese sauce that was comprised of milk, chicken stock, and neufchatel cream cheese.

I used that recipe as the basis for this Buffalo Blue Mac & Cheese, which is far from bland. Spicy wing sauce is swirled into the luscious – but low fat! – cheese sauce, and blue cheese crumbles are incorporated into the crispy panko topping to create little melty pillows amongst the crunch.

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The vibrant buffalo sauce tints the sauce an orange hue reminiscent of the classic velveeta mac & cheese (which I don’t think I’ve actually ever eaten) without using the over-processed cheese “product”. I was light-handed with the buffalo sauce to appeal to the masses – who might not like super spicy food – but an extra drizzle after baking makes up for any missing heat.

Yet another kid meal to add to our arsenal!

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Buffalo Blue Mac & Cheese

by Lauren Zembron (adapted from Cooking Light’s Two Cheese Mac and Cheese)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (6 servings)

    For Pasta:

    • 10 ounce whole wheat elbow macaroni
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock, divided use
    • 1/4 cup all-natural buffalo wing sauce (we like Wing Time medium heat, available at Whole Foods), plus more for drizzling if desired
    • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk, preferably organic
    • 3 Tbsp flour
    • 4 ounces low fat cream cheese (such as neufchatel or Greek yogurt cream cheese)
    • 3/4 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    For Topping:

    • 1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
    • 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

    Instructions

    Preheat oven to 400°F.

    Cook macaroni according to package instructions; drain and keep warm in a large bowl.

    While macaroni is cooking, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring. Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup stock, buffalo sauce, milk, and flour until smooth. Whisk milk mixture into the garlic. Bring to a low boil; reduce heat to medium & cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken, stirring often. Remove milk mixture from heat; whisk in cream cheese and cheddar cheese until smooth. Season to taste with pepper. Pour over pasta in bowl, tossing to coat; set aside.

    Make the blue cheese topping: in a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, & crumbled blue cheese until well-mixed.

    Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Evenly scatter blue cheese topping over the pasta. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown.

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