Hidden Zucchini Mac and Cheese with Garlic-Brown Butter Breadcrumbs
Like many ’90s babies, I grew up eating a ton of mac and cheese. I’ve never had a problem eating my vegetables, but for kids that have a tough time getting enough of them, this is a fantastic sneaky recipe! It is my adult version of classic stovetop mac and cheese, with added zucchini (of course), sharp Cheddar, fontina, and Gouda, and—the best part—garlic–brown butter breadcrumbs.
- Mac and Cheese
- 2 3/4 teaspoons (14 g) salt, divided
- 1 pound (450 g) elbow pasta
- 5 tablespoons (75 g) unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- Black pepper, as needed
- 1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (720 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 ounces (240 g) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 6 ounces (180 g) grated fontina cheese
- 4 ounces (120 g) grated Gouda cheese
- Garlic-Brown Butter Breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup (50 g) panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the mac and cheese, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add 2 teaspoons (10 g) of the salt. Add the elbow pasta and cook until al dente, 7 to 9 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it is fragrant. Add the zucchini and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with the black pepper.
Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, and increase the heat to high. Continue to whisk until the milk comes to a simmer and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, nutmeg, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper and whisk to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gradually add the Cheddar, fontina, and Gouda cheeses, stirring well after each addition, until the cheeses have melted completely. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and season with black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce sit while you make the garlic–brown butter breadcrumbs.
To make the garlic–brown butter breadcrumbs, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and whisk constantly until the butter is brown and becomes nutty and fragrant, 7 to 8 minutes, watching it carefully to prevent burning.
Once the butter is brown, add the panko breadcrumbs and salt and stir to combine, letting the breadcrumbs toast for about 1 minute.
Add the pasta to the warm cheese sauce and stir to combine. Add half of the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Serve immediately with the remaining breadcrumbs on top.
Reprinted with permission from Eat More Plants by Molly Krebs, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019.