Go ahead, serve your family these crunchy, crumb-topped creamy noodles and watch them dig in. You don’t have to tell them that there are hidden sweet potatoes and onions puréed into the cheesy sauce, adding to the vegetable content of the meal, or that the macaroni is made from healthy whole grain. Why say anything? Just listen to the happy sounds of people enjoying a cheesy mac.
Serves 6 (makes 8 cups)
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for the pan
2 cups (8 ounces) chopped sweet potato
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups), divided
4 ounces Gruyère, shredded (1 1/2 cups), divided
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
12 ounces whole wheat macaroni
1 cup frozen peas
2 slices whole wheat bread
(11/2 cups breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a 2-quart baking dish. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil for the macaroni.
In a large sauté pan, heat the canola oil over medium heat and sauté the sweet potatoes and onion. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan, cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are very soft when pierced with a paring knife. Transfer the sweet potatoes and onion to a food processor and purée until smooth, scraping down as necessary.
Pour the milk into the sauté pan and warm it over medium heat just until hot to the touch (don’t boil). Transfer the hot milk to the processor and add the nutmeg, salt, 2 cups of the Cheddar, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, and the cider vinegar. Process until smooth. The cheese should melt from being mixed with the hot milk and vegetables.
Cook the macaroni for 2 minutes less than the package instructs (it should be a little underdone). Put the peas in the colander and drain the hot macaroni over the peas. Shake the colander to dry the pasta and peas. Transfer into the prepared 2-quart baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over, stirring to mix. Make the breadcrumbs by tearing the bread into coarse pieces, then pulsing into large crumbs in the food processor. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cheeses, breadcrumbs, and butter or oil. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the macaroni.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.
Once cooled, keeps for 1 week, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.
Reprinted with permission