Cheesy Pasta with Beans and Veggies
Or as it is known in our house, “Almost Mac and Cheese.” It’s very similar to traditional mac and cheese, but I make my sauce lighter by using veggie (or chicken) broth and by using just enough to cheese to be able to taste it but not overwhelm. This meal is kid-approved by Paxton, who claimed he was going to eat all of the leftovers.
I’ve been doing a lot of big batch cooking this week – large pots of rice, quinoa, and beans. These are all super versatile ingredients that can be used in any number of recipes. I soaked and cooked 1 pound of dried butter beans, which made it into 3 meals, including this one. Feel free to substitute with 1 – 2 cans of canned white beans (depending on how bean-y you want your pasta to be).
If you don’t want beans, use the same amount of cooked chicken. Or use whatever you normally like in mac and cheese – bacon, cut up hot dogs, lobster … Just make sure to cook it first and stir it into the pasta at the end.
Onto the recipe!
Start with 1 pound of pasta. Use any kind of pasta you want. I prefer shells, fusilli, macaroni, penne, or other smallish pasta that holds onto the sauce. While waiting for the well-salted water to boil, I thinly sliced the last 4 medium-sized carrots I had in the refrigerator and pulled out half a bag (about half a pound) of frozen peas. Use any fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand. My plan was to use an entire bag of mixed frozen veggies, but I was all out!
Cook the pasta to al dente according to the directions on the box. Reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water. If you don’t want to use veggie or chicken broth, reserve a total of 3 cups of pasta water. I dropped the carrots in with the pasta about 4 minutes before it was done and the frozen peas in right before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Cook until the mixture starts to turn golden brown. Keep stirring so the flour and butter don’t burn.
Stir in about 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, an option big pinch of chili flakes, and 4 – 5 minced garlic cloves (or 6 or 7, but who’s counting?). Next, add 2 cups of veggie or chicken broth or reserved pasta water and stir in 1 cup of shredded cheese. I used mild cheddar, but use whatever melty cheese you have on hand.
Stir in the pasta and veggies and add about 2 – 3 cups of cooked white beans or 1 – 2 cans of rinsed white beans. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time to achieve your desired sauce consistency. I used about half a cup. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Let the pasta, beans, and veggies cook in the sauce for another minute or two. Then scoop into bowls and eat up. Enjoy!