Greek Yogurt Macaroni and Cheese – Lightened-Up Comfort Food!
Healthier Vegetarian Mac and Cheese Recipe with a
Smoky, Crispy Breadcrumb Topping
Tube-shaped macaroni originated in Italy as maccheroni, which may come from the lost word maccare, meaning “to pound.” It was one of the earliest forms of pasta developed and the name was commonly used as a blanket term for all types of pasta, apart from lasagna and those with filling. In 18th century England macaroni became quite fashionable and was used as a slang term for dandies who wore white powdered wigs with curls resembling pasta. The English were also fond of using macaroni in sweet puddings, not unlike Jewish noodle kugels. Arguably, one of the greatest developments to come along in macaroni’s history was the introduction of a cheese sauce, which gave birth to the now commonplace treat known as macaroni and cheese.
While macaroni and cheese may seem commonplace in American homes today, it was once enjoyed as a delicacy of sorts by Europe’s elite classes. A very early recipe for the dish appeared in the famous historical cookbook Forme of Cury, which was a highly regarded resource in most royal kitchens. Eventually macaroni and cheese moved into aristocratic homes, then eventually made its way across the sea to American kitchens. Thomas Jefferson is often credited with popularizing macaroni in America after his European travels. Jefferson’s African American slave chef, James Hemmings, accompanied Jefferson to France where he studied classic French cooking. It was there that he mastered a recipe for macaroni and cheese that Jefferson is said to have adored. In true French fashion, this version contained far more cream than the one found in Forme of Cury.
Cheese, butter, cream, pasta… these are a few of my favorite things. In fact, I love them so much that I’m tempted to indulge in macaroni and cheese on a daily basis. However much my tastebuds would love that, I do not get enough exercise to justify eating that much mac and cheese! That’s why I developed this lighter Greek Yogurt Macaroni and Cheese recipe, which combines sharp cheddar and Greek yogurt to create a lighter yet very flavorful cheddar sauce. While it’s not exactly health food, it is much healthier than a full-fat macaroni and cheese recipe. It’s so creamy and delectable, you won’t miss the extra fat from those ultra-rich recipes made with heavy cream and four different cheeses. This version is healthier, easier on the stomach and oh-so-tasty. You’ll love it, promise!
Note: If you’re vegetarian, be sure to use a cheese with a vegetarian rennet.
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- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 1/4 tsp salt if salt sensitive use less and salt to taste after cooking
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups lowfat milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt nonfat or lowfat
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the elbow macaroni. Boil until just tender (don’t overcook it). Drain the pasta in a colander and spray cool water over it to keep it from sticking together.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt, and black pepper. Stir to form a thick paste.
- Slowly whisk in the milk, ¼ cup at a time. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat for a few minutes, whisking frequently, until it thickens and begins to bubble around the edges. Do not let the sauce boil.
- Whisk in grated cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and a thick sauce forms. Stir in the Greek yogurt until smooth. Stir the cooked macaroni into the sauce, making sure all the pasta is evenly coated by sauce.Pour macaroni with cheese sauce into a greased 2 qt gratin or 8x8 baking dish, spreading out out into an even layer and scraping all remaining sauce from the pot over the top of the pasta.
- Mix together the breadcrumbs and smoked paprika and evenly sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Place in the oven and bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes until the top and breadcrumbs are golden brown to your liking.Serve hot. For a spicy twist, substitute cayenne pepper for black pepper.
Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.
Miller, Adrian. Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. N.p.: U of North Carolina, 2013. Print.