This lightened up Broccoli and Cheddar Pasta Bake has all the flavor and creamy texture of a classic broccoli and cheese dish, but with a lot less guilt than traditionally calorie-packed recipes. I threw this together last night after a non-stop day and it was just the sort of comforting, indulgent dinner I was craving.
This version uses ingredients we generally have in the pantry, but you could spice it up with other fresh or frozen veggies and any kind of cheese – think corn and bell peppers with pepper jack or sweet peas with a Swiss/gruyere combo.
- 1 lb dry whole-wheat pasta (rigatoni, penne, or other macaroni pasta with ridges)
- 2 cups broccoli, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fat-free milk
- 1 tbsp spicy brown or Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water for the last two minutes of cooking the pasta. Drain the pasta and broccoli and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two until it begins to brown. Add the flour, and whisk until a smooth roux forms. Add the milk, mustard and the spices and continue whisking until the mixture thickens, about 1-2 minutes. When the sauce begins to bubble, add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted.
- Add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce and stir until combined. Pour the pasta mixture into an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the pasta is warmed through and the top is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.