What's For Dinner: Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

I have to admit that when we are strapped for dinner ideas, more than once I have headed to the pantry and come back to the kitchen with a box of macaroni and cheese. I try to justify the choice in that at least it's the "organic" brand, but, still, powdered cheese? Probably not the most wholesome dinner choice. Even if it is delicious and filling.

But, honestly, making macaroni and cheese from scratch really isn't that difficult. The only real difference is that, in lieu of using a packet of cheese powder, you have to make a simple b├ęchamel sauce instead. While a classic b├ęchamel sauce requires butter, this recipe (adapted from a recent issue of Real Simple magazine) uses olive oil.

This macaroni and cheese gets a big lift in flavor from the addition of roasted vegetables. I'd say it could be one of those "fool your kids into eating vegetables" kind of meals, except, aside from the cauliflower, nothing is really hiding out in this dish.

While, of course, the typical pasta in macaroni and cheese is elbow macaroni, there's really no reason why you couldn't use a different pasta shape. I'd recommend using something with plenty of nooks and crannies to hold onto as much of the cheesy sauce as possible -- for my version, I used campanelle.

This recipe comes together in less than 45 minutes, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner. Looks like I have no more excuses when it comes to eating macaroni and cheese from a box -- particularly since this veggie-stuffed version is quite a bit more wholesome.

Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups small cauliflower florets
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 ounces dried pasta (shells, campanelle, penne)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups organic 1% (or low-fat) milk
1 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, toss together the broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables onto the prepped baking sheet. Roast until tender, (flipping halfway through), 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain and set aside.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and, while whisking, cook for 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk in the milk. Cook until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese, vegetables, and pasta. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
6. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square (or 2-quart) baking dish. Top with the remaining half-cup cheddar cheese and broil under golden and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

(adapted from this Real Simple recipe)