Stovetop Mac and Cheese
with white beans / broccoli / bell peppers
We couldn't leave well enough alone and gave this classic comfort food a boost with white beans for added protein and colorful vegetables for flavor and nutrition. Feel free to skip the panko topping if you're short on time, but it does give the top of this super creamy mac and cheese a nice crunchy texture.
Smarts #1: Be careful not to overcook the pasta since it will continue to cook a bit more as it's tossed with the other warm ingredients. Also, don't forget to add the broccoli to the pasta in the last minute of cooking.
Smarts #2: The keys to avoiding gritty mac and cheese are 1) to grate the cheese yourself, avoiding pre-grated cheese and 2) to add the cheese in small increments, whisking well after each addition.
- Bell peppers, red - 1, diced
- Broccoli - 12 oz, finely chopped
- Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
- Cheese, extra-sharp cheddar - 6 oz, grated (we used white cheddar; don't buy pre-shredded cheese as it can make the finished dish grainy)
- Beans, navy or cannellini (14 oz / 397 g) - 1 can, drained and rinsed
- Pasta, elbow macaroni - 8 oz (sub any pasta shape)
- Butter - 2 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp
- Panko breadcrumbs - 1/4 cup
- Flour, all-purpose - 2 Tbsp
- Salt - 1/2 tsp
- Red pepper flakes (opt) - 1/4 tsp
- Milk - 1 1/2 cups
- Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
- When water is boiling, add pasta. Cook until al dente, tender but not soggy. About 1 minute before finishing, add in broccoli. Drain.
- While water is boiling / pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add first part of butter until melted. Add panko with a pinch of salt. Saute until panko is lightly toasted and golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Set panko aside and wipe out pan.
- Return pan to heat and add second part of butter. Add bell peppers to melted butter and saute until peppers are soft, ~5 minutes.
- Add flour, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir until no dry spots of flour remain.
- Slowly pour milk into the pan while whisking. Continue whisking vigorously until everything is evenly combined. Heat milk until it begins to simmer (increase heat if needed to speed this process along). Simmer milk, stirring frequently until sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Add grated cheese a bit at a time, whisking the sauce well between each addition.
- Stir beans, pasta, and broccoli into sauce.
- Serve pasta with panko breadcrumbs sprinkled over top for some crunch. Enjoy!
New family favorite! The only changes we made were to double the garlic (we LOVE garlic) and substitute herbed breadcrumbs for the Panko since that's what we had on hand. Next time we're going to try adding either Mushrooms or crumbled bacon to mix up the flavor a bit. This one is definitely going on our rotation!0 Helpful
My 3 year old ate every bite on her plate and declared that she LOVED this dinner. We are pandemic cooking so used mixed frozen veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots) which worked surprisingly well. Great pantry staples meal!0 Helpful
Pretty good - though I added some different spices and left out the beans!0 Helpful
Beans were hard to get used to, but helped it to be filling! I would love to mess with this recipe because overall I did like it a lot! So did roommate!0 Helpful
Doubled the panko crumbs per suggestions. Agree that needs some more spice to it.0 Helpful
I used half the butter for the breadcrumbs. We loved the Mac and cheese (even the beans!!). The pepper was the main flavor I tasted when eating it. I'd like to try it again with different vegetables.1 Helpful