Veggie-Packed Macaroni + Cheese

by Amy on 13 January 2015

Kid-Friendly Veggie Mac + Cheese - www.FearlessHomemaker.comVeggie Mac + Cheese (with broccoli, peas, + carrots) - www.FearlessHomemaker.comAs a mom to a toddler, one of my ongoing goals is to get her to eat a diet that is (relatively) balanced + healthy(ish). While she doesn’t hate vegetables, like many children, she prefers to fill up on the other stuff, + sometimes leaves the veggies behind. So, I figured a good way to squeeze a few more veggies into her diet was to mix them into meals that she already loves. Namely, macaroni + cheese! In this recipe, I cook the carrots, peas, + broccoli right in the water with the pasta, then toss everything with a homemade cheddar sauce, top it with some seasoned bread crumbs, + bake it until golden and bubbly. Mmmmm.

And how is it? Truly wonderful! This is one of those dishes that gets gobbled up by both the children at the table AND the adults. It’s rich enough for the adult palate, while familiar enough to be appealing to little ones, too. While my little girl loves this as her main dish, I prefer it as a side dish, alongside turkey burgers, grilled chicken, or meatloaf. And while I chose to use her three favorite vegetables – peas, carrots, + broccoli – you can get creative and substitute whatever veggies are the most popular in your household. However you make it, and whatever you serve it with, I’m confident that you + your family will love this mac and cheese!

Veggie Mac + Cheese (with broccoli, peas, + carrots) - www.FearlessHomemaker.comVeggie Mac + Cheese (with broccoli, peas, + carrots) - www.FearlessHomemaker.com

Veggie-Packed Macaroni + Cheese

serves 8, a Fearless Homemaker original recipe

Ingredients

3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (or other short pasta)
1 cup diced carrots (from about 4 medium peeled carrots)
3 cups broccoli florets (from one small head of broccoli)
1 cup frozen peas
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs*

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 baking dish (or lightly spray with cooking spray).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it’s boiling, add in the pasta and diced carrots, and set your timer to however long it takes to cook your pasta al dente. For me, that was 8 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until your timer has FOUR MINUTES left. Add in the broccoli. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat, add in the peas, stir, and reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid. Then, drain the pasta/carrot/broccoli/pea mixture + set aside.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, then add in the diced onions. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour + cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat + simmer for 3 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the cheddar, 1 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until smooth.

In a large bowl, stir together cooked macaroni/veggies, reserved cooking liquid, + the cheese sauce. Transfer to the prepared 9×13 baking dish. Top evenly with the bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, until the mac + cheese is hot + bubbling, and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

*Note: If your family prefers a stovetop macaroni + cheese instead of a baked version, you can simply omit the breadcrumb topping, pasta cooking liquid, + baking time in the oven. Once you mix together the pasta/veggies and cheese sauce, you can serve it that way instead!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel January 13, 2015 at 9:10 am

ah you must’ve read my mind because today I’m blogging about how tough it has been to feed my daughter! i’ve tried pastina with veggies and parmesean, but definitely going to give this a try also!

2 amy January 13, 2015 at 9:11 am

I’m going to hop over to your blog to read your post + then I’ll comment there with any other possible suggestions I can think of, too. =)

3 EA-The Spicy RD January 13, 2015 at 11:43 am

Your little girl is gorgeous!! And, great idea for adding in her favorite veggies to the mac and cheese. My “little girl” is now 13, and still LOVES mac and cheese, although not always with veggies. I think feeding a teenager gets trickier, BUT w/ a good, balanced start in childhood, I think it all works out well when they become adults :-) Happy New Year!

4 amy January 13, 2015 at 11:50 am

Yes! Both my husband + I were very very picky eaters as children and teenagers, so we’re trying to get Fearless Baby off to a strong start with a varied, balanced diet. I’m hoping that it gets her started on a good path to be a healthy(ish), not-too-picky eater as she gets older! So far, so good, but we’ll see! 😉

5 Lesley Eats January 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Looks delicious! But my little eater doesn’t like mac and cheese enough to even give this a try, I’m sure. It’s crazy what she’s missing. :)

6 amy January 13, 2015 at 12:30 pm

My brother didn’t eat mac + cheese growing up (and still doesn’t), and I always think/thought the same – he doesn’t know what he’s missing!

7 Adri January 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

The Fearless Bab is absolutely beautiful, and I LOVE seeing her! Also your veg-enhanced mac and cheese looks great. Well done, Mom!

8 Kelly January 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Aaw your sweet lil girl absolutely adorable!!! Love all the veggies you packed into this mac & cheese… especially the broccoli :) My 3 year old is the same, he does love some veggies but if he had to choose between greens or carbs, he would totally leave them behind on his plate too. This is delicious and sounds like the perfect way to sneak veggies in for the kiddos and the husbands :)

9 sarah k @ the pajama chef January 13, 2015 at 3:10 pm

love this recipe, amy! i like doctoring up boxed mac & cheese w/ frozen veggies so i know i’d love a baked from scratch version too :)

10 amy January 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Oh, yes! Even before we had a kiddo, I loved tossing some peas or mixed veggies into boxed mac + cheese to make it feel a little healthier. =)

11 Cailee January 13, 2015 at 7:09 pm

This looks so good!! I know it’s for kids, but I want some!! :) You are such a great mum!! Yay for raising healthy eaters!

12 amy January 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Even though I made it with kiddos in mind, I LOVED it myself, too! Gotta love a meal that makes everyone happy, right? =)

13 Amy (Savory Moments) January 14, 2015 at 5:38 am

I love adding veggies to my mac n’ cheese to make it more nutritious. It’s great that your daughter likes it, too! A definite win!

14 Beth January 14, 2015 at 7:02 am

Such a great way of packing vegetables right into the meal! And how awesome is it that both adults and kids love it? There’s nothing that says comfort food like homemade mac and cheese.

15 danielle January 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

My little man loves mac and cheese! Unfortunately, he’s on to me and would pick out every single vegetable before eating this. The rest of us would gobble this up!

16 amy January 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Bahaha! Thankfully, my little one is still little enough that she hasn’t gotten that crafty … yet. =P

17 Anna (Hidden Ponies) January 14, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Oh wow, she is such a toddler already, where’d your baby go?! :) This sounds like a great weeknight meal everyone would love.

18 Choc Chip Uru January 14, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I still remember when you just gave birth to her, this is evidence of time going by fast! Hope she enjoyed this amazing macaroni 😀

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

19 amy January 15, 2015 at 6:57 am

@Choc + Anna, isn’t she so grown up now? The time does fly! =D

20 Dedy@Dentist Chef January 15, 2015 at 8:22 am

Lovin this healtier version of mac and cheese….

21 mike January 19, 2015 at 7:52 am

Awesome! I would to try this as well, I don’t have any kids (yet) but I love cooking! Thanks for the recipe :)

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