I can’t remember where I saw the idea to use pureed broccoli in the sauce for macaroni and cheese, but it came to mind again recently when I had a bouquet of broccoli calling my name from the fridge. I vaguely remember the broccoli was steamed, then pureed in the food processor with milk. Later, I regretfully remembered it was pureed in a blender, not a food processor!
It was a new recipe I was going to work on, just for the fun of creating a green mac n cheese dish. It would also be healthy, somewhat, if you didn’t think about all that cheesy goodness. Which we won’t. Cheesy goodness is a sometimes treat. Otherwise we’d all have to live on the treadmill.
I started by cutting the broccoli into good sized florets (about 3 cups) and brought it to a boil in a saucepan with about an inch of water. I turned the heat down so it steamed for about 10 minutes on medium low. It was just fork tender. I drained the broccoli and put it into the bowl of my Cuisinart food processor along with 2 cups of milk. I immediately regretted that move. I had not been thinking! The food processor has such a shallow bowl that milk oozed out all over the counter from the insert. Use a blender to prevent this if you have a similarly shallow food processor! Puree the milk and broccoli until they are smooth.
Using a large skillet, I melted 3 tablespoons of butter then stirred in 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. I cooked and stirred it for several minutes to cook the flour, then added the seasonings. Slowly I added about a cup of the green milk mixture. I stirred it until it was smooth and thick, then added another cup and did the same. I poured the rest of the green mixture in and stirred until it began to thicken.
I used some shredded white cheddar and what I had left of a container of shredded parmesan for my cheeses. I stirred until it melted then tasted it for seasoning. I added about ½ teaspoon of pepper and a generous pinch of cayenne, stirred well and removed it from the burner.
In the meantime I had brought a large kettle of salted water to a boil and cooked a box of cellantani (by Barilla) until it was al dente. I drained the pasta, reserving several cups of the liquid in case I needed it.
I put the skillet back on the burner and added the pasta to the sauce, stirring well. I didn’t have to add any more water to my sauce, I had plenty of liquid because I’d had to add more milk when I lost so much out of the food processor. I probably had closer to 3 cups of milk instead of 2. I let it simmer for about 5 minutes so the pasta would absorb the green cheesey goodness of the sauce, then removed it from the heat. Cooking it a little longer helped and the liquid absorbed nicely. I did a taste test, added more black pepper, then plated the pasta.
We loved the flavors; the cheesy broccoli sauce was fantastic! It was better than just dicing up a bunch of broccoli and throwing it into mac and cheese. It wasn’t slap-you-in-the-face broccoli flavored, it was just the right amount. I was thinking next time I might added some little crispy bits of fried bacon too, for a different kind of flavor.
12 ounces pasta (I used Cellantani, you could use any similar pasta)
3 cups broccoli florets
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Generous pinch cayenne
2 cups white cheddar; shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan; shredded
Cook pasta according to box directions until al dente. Drain and reserve several cups of pasta water.
In a large skillet on medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook for several minutes. Add seasonings and stir.
Slowly add one cup of the green mixture at a time, stirring until it is smooth and thickened. Repeat with another cup, then add the rest of the liquid. Stir until smooth and thick.
Add the white cheddar and parmesan and stir until melted.
Add drained pasta to the skillet; stir to coat. Add pasta water in small amounts if it appears too dry when the pasta has absorbed some of the liquid. Continue adding and stirring until desired consistency. If you have a lot of liquid, let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until more liquid is absorbed. Taste for seasoning and serve.