Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sweet Potato Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese

Photo by Daniel Stranahan
Mac n' cheese is at the top of my comfort foods list. But let's face it, it's generally not the healthiest dinner choice. In this version, we use whole wheat pasta to up the nutritional value.  Sweet potatoes add more dietary fiber as well as a bunch of other vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C and B-6, and potassium, to name a few). This super veggie has been said to be the healthiest one out there!

The smokiness of the gouda balances the sweet potatoes nicely and makes you wonder whether there's some bacon lurking around somewhere. And the whole wheat breadcrumb sage topping? Well, it's on top - and over the top.

I made this dish for my kids and a few of my girlfriends last month. After two helpings each, we still had quite a bit left. My fridge was packed, so I sent my friends home with aluminum foil swans full of Sweet Potato Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese. Over the next few days I got "yum" texts from them (and even one of their husbands). In the interest of full disclosure, my younger son (who has something against combined foods) at best smelled it and ate his whole wheat pasta plain with a drizzle of olive oil. He's a work-in-progress. But then again, aren't we all in one way or another?
Photo by Daniel Stranahan

Sweet Potato Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt, divided
1 lb whole wheat pasta (fusilli, elbow or small shell)
6 T unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 T all purpose flour
6 cups milk (I use 2%)
14 oz smoked gouda, grated
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
3 T finely chopped fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 450º. Put sweet potato cubes in a 9x12" baking dish. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive to coat. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/4 tsp of salt. Roast for 15 minutes, until lightly browned and tender. Set sweet potatoes aside, reduce oven temperature to 400º, and grease same baking dish to get it ready for the mac n' cheese.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente (done, but still with a little bite to it). Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute, until fragrant. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 12-15 minutes. Whisk in grated gouda and 1/4 tsp salt. Remove pot from heat and season to taste with additional salt, if necessary. Add cooked pasta and sweet potatoes to sauce and toss well to combine. At this point it may look a little on the saucy side, but you'll need that to keep it from drying out in the oven. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.

To make topping, combine breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and chopped sage in a medium bowl and stir well. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once absorbed, toss mixture with your fingers to distribute oil and form crumbles. Sprinkle topping over pasta. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate to bake later.)

Bake at 400º until sauce is bubbly and topping is nicely browned, about 10 minutes if you're baking it right away, or 30 minutes if you're baking it from the fridge. If the topping starts browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil, then uncover again for the last few minutes of baking. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Makes 8-10 servings
What kids can do (with appropriate tools and adult supervision)
*Chop sweet potatoes (make sure to halve them lengthwise or cut them into 1/2 inch slices to provide a flat cutting surface; wavy choppers work great and are safer for younger kids)
*Grate cheeses
*Taste sauce for seasoning
*Measure ingredients for topping and stir
*Sprinkle topping over pasta mixture

1 comment:

  1. This looks delicious. I make a similar version with sharp cheddar and squash puree.