Healthy Twist: Quinoa Pasta Mac and Cheese

I’m always trying to find ways to make my favorite comfort foods healthier, and now- thanks to the wide variety of higher fiber, lower sugar and generally all around better-for-you alternatives to pasta, breads and other foods, it’s getting a lot easier.

The other night after work, I was strolling the aisles of Figueroa Produce- a great little shop by my house that sells a lot of what many would consider “health food.” I spied a box of quinoa pasta and decided to give it a shot. I stood in front of it for about 10 minutes (and probably garnering a lot of “what is she doing?” looks from the staff) trying to create some recipe in my head. The lightbulb finally went on, so I picked up a box of silken tofu, some crumbled feta, Parmesan, mushrooms, garlic, onions and thyme and rushed home to start cooking.

What, pray tell, do those ingredients make? A healthy mac and cheese, of course! I know- the tofu is scaring you, right? Silken tofu is my go-to item when I’m looking to create a creamy sauce without using cream, flour and butter, and if you season it very well (and I mean, VERY well) it works. Trust me.

Here’s the recipe. You can certainly add whatever you like to the pasta, but both J and I found this combo tasty and satisfying.

Quinoa Pasta Mac and Cheese

1 box Quinoa pasta
1 box silken tofu
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Grapeseed oil
1 large, yellow onion, diced- divided in half (you’ll use half for the sauce, half for the pasta)
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 box of crimini mushrooms, diced
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 individual gratin dishes, sprayed with cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 425.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While this is happening, heat up about a teaspoon of grapeseed oil in  a saute pan. Add the garlic and all of the diced onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute until translucent. Put half of the onions in a food processor, half to a plate. Add another teaspoon of oil to the same pan, then add the diced mushrooms and thyme; season well with salt and pepper until the water has evaporated from the mushrooms. Add to the same plate as the onions.
To the food processor/onions: add the silken tofu, egg, parmesan, salt and pepper and whiz until smooth.
Cook the quinoa pasta- but cook it so it’s super al dente. Basically, you want to undercook the pasta since it’s going to bake and get soft anyway. Drain the pasta, put it back into the pot, then stir in the mushroom/onion mixture, tofu sauce, feta cheese and green peas. Stir very well so all of the pasta is coated.
Divide the pasta mixture between four individual gratin dishes (or one large baking dish). Sprinkle a bit of parmesan over the top of each. Cover the dishes with tin foil (spray the inside of the tin foil with a bit of cooking spray so the cheese doesn’t stick), then bake for 25 minutes until bubbling. Take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes until the top is golden brown.

3 Responses to Healthy Twist: Quinoa Pasta Mac and Cheese

  1. Sounds delish!! I’ll have to try it!

  2. That last line is critical. And it’s the bit I ALWAYS forget. All our pasta bakes (the ones I make, at least) look like they lack vitamin D. A bit like me in an Irish winter.

  3. MM – you do a fine job at the pasta bakes! But I will be *super* impressed if you make this one!!

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