Lighter Macaroni and Cheese Recipe | We are not Martha
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Lighter Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe for lighter macaroni and cheese has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs.

(This recipe for Lighter Macaroni and Cheese was originally posted in April 2008, but was updated with new photos in 2018).

Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com

Though it’s definitely warming up, the weather’s still a bit nippy in Boston (until tomorrow when it hits 68 degrees!). By the time I walk home from my local coffee shop in the evening, my light jacket isn’t enough and I’m craving something to warm me up. One of my favorite comfort foods, macaroni and cheese, sounds good to me at any time, but it can be so ridiculously heavy sometimes. Don’t get me wrong… I could happily eat an entire casserole dish of classic mac and cheese, but when winter is nearing it’s end and I’ve been stuffing myself full of comfort food for months, sometimes I start craving something lighter. 

I was excited to find Martha Stewart’s recipe for Lighter Macaroni and Cheese. Though it should by no means be categorized as “healthy,” it is somewhat better for you than the typical mac & cheese due to the fact that it uses 1% milk and less cheese and butter and includes roasted tomatoes. I made a couple changes like boosting the spices for more flavor and using whole wheat bread for my breadcrumbs. Because this lighter macaroni and cheese is baked right in ramekins, it’s perfectly portioned for you, which keeps you from going back for more…and more…and more.we

I’m not going to lie, roasting these tomatoes has me totally craving summer. I almost never add tomatoes to things like mac and cheese or grilled cheese, but as soon as I do, I remember how delicious it is.

Aren’t these beauties??

Collage showing sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet, sprinkled with thyme, salt, and pepper; showing the tomatoes roasted; and showing the tomatoes in a ramekin

If you’re short on time, you can obviously use store-bought breadcrumbs, but I almost always have whole wheat bread in my pantry and fresher is always better to me. This lighter mac and cheese is easy to prepare, even though it does use slightly more dishes than I care to use in the dinner making process. In any event, you simply roast the tomatoes, make the breadcrumbs, cook the pasta, and make the cheese sauce. Then you combine it all together in cute little ramekins!

Collage showing lighter mac and cheese being assembled with the toasting of the breadcrumbs, mac and cheese in a ramekin with a tomato on top, and sprinkled with breadcrumbs and thyme

Bake until the breadcrumbs are nice and golden and mac and cheese is bubbling and then dig right in!

Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com
I mean, does it get any better than having a little personal dish of your very own mac and cheese? I basically sat on the couch with my ramekin in my lap and coveted every last bite of creamy, cheesy deliciousness.
Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com
Of course, it took all the willpower in the world not to go in for a second ramekin. I kept telling myself, “it’s lighter macaroni and cheese, so it’s totally OK to have two, right??” The sad answer to that question is probably no. I mean, in reality it’s OK to do anything you want to do. But it’s not like this recipe magically turns pasta and cheese into health foods. Mac and cheese is still mac and cheese…. It’s just a bit lighter than normal.
Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com
And you’re getting some veggies into your diet with those tomatoes. Actually, my expert advice is to make a double batch of those tomatoes so you can also snack on them throughout the week. Without having to use the excuse, “I really want some more tomatoes, so I may as well grab another ramekin of mac and cheese. Sigh.”

Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com

While I’m sure I’ll still be doing plenty of indulging in good old fashioned mac and cheese, I’m super thrilled to have a lighter macaroni and cheese recipe at my disposal and I’m sure this dish will be making plenty of more appearances throughout the years!
What’s your favorite lightened up comfort food?
5 from 2 votes
Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com
Lighter Mac and Cheese
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 

This recipe for Lighter Mac and Cheese has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumb.

Course: Entree
Servings: 8 servings
Author: We are not Martha
Ingredients
  • 6 3-inch vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into twenty-four 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus 8 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups 1% milk, divided
  • 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/4 cups (8 oz) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 oz) grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 

  2. Place tomatoes on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Drizzle tomatoes with about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle each with 1 tsp thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and leave oven on.

  3. Place bread in a food processor and process until coarse crumbs form. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cook for about 5 minutes, until almost al dente. Drain macaroni and run under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to a large bowl.

  5. In a small bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of the milk and the flour until smooth. 

  6. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, garlic powder, remaining 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, and 1 tsp salt. Add remaining milk and chicken stock. Whisk in flour mixture and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, continuing to whisk frequently. Add cheddar and parmesan and stir until melted. Pour mixture over macaroni and stir until well coated.

  7. Put eight 10 oz ramekins on a baking sheet and place 2 tomato slices in bottom of each. Divide macaroni mixture evenly among ramekins and top each with a tomato slice. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and thyme sprigs. 

  8. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from marthastewart.com


Lighter macaroni and cheese -- This recipe has all the elements and flavors of a classic mac and cheese, but with a little bit of a healthier kick, thanks to roasted tomatoes and whole wheat breadcrumbs | wearenotmartha.com

11 Responses to "Lighter Macaroni and Cheese"

  1. Audrey says:

    This looks so delicious. Definitely worth a try (and it´s a bonus that it´s lighter than a normal mac&cheese).

    Thank you for posting this 🙂

  2. Sara says:

    that looks SO GOOD! you’re becoming quite the photog, too. definitely a step up from the cell phone pics!

  3. Sarah says:

    OMG – this looks so delicious!

  4. Hearts and Crafts says:

    Oooo those look so good! I have never thought to make personal sized Mac & Cheese! Crunchy topping for everyone!

  5. Katelin says:

    This looks so amazing, I really may have to make this…mmmmmmmm!

  6. Sassy Molassy says:

    Yumm. Cheesey goodness.

  7. Cakespy says:

    A lot of times when I see the word “light” in recipes it makes me a little wary, but this looks fantastic–worth the dish-washing! LOVE the tomatoes in it too. Yum.

  8. toni says:

    Oh wow, that looks so rich! Hard to believe it’s “light”. Haha!

  9. Hannah says:

    I substituted vegetable broth because my sister is a vegetarian and added garlic…..both added great flavor. Delicious and unique spin on mac n cheese!

  10. Abeer Rizvi says:

    I love the addition of tomatoes… I don’t know why I never tried that before!

  11. Shihoko Ura says:

    I actually never made and ate macaroni cheese. I don’t know why but lighter version might be a good introduction to macaroni cheese.

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