Baked mac and cheese with little white beans
Everyone needs a good mac and cheese recipe in their repertoire. Soft little white beans from a can are inconspicuous alongside the pasta; alternatively, you could purée them along with some of the milk and stir them into the cheese sauce. This can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in the baking dish; sprinkle with the crumb mixture or cheese right before baking.
- ½ lb (250 g) dry macaroni, whole wheat rotini, small shells, or other pasta
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) butter
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups (625 mL) milk
- 3 cups (750 mL) shredded old white cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, or other meltable cheese
- 1 cup (250 mL) rinsed and drained canned white beans (half a 19 oz/540 mL can)
Crumb topping (optional):
- 2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil, olive oil, or melted butter
- ¼ cup (60 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it’s tender but not mushy. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 ° F (175° C). In the empty pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or so, until the mixture starts to turn golden. Stir in the milk and bring the sauce to a full boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, until the mixture is nice and thick.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts. Add salt to taste, then stir in the drained pasta and beans. If you want a breadcrumb topping, pulse the bread, butter, and Parmesan in a food processor until the bread turns to crumbs and the mixture is well blended. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs or additional cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dish is bubbly around the edges and the topping is golden.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Adapted from Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Every Day by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan (Whitecap 2011). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.