I wanted something a little different. Something that could sub for a more mainstream version of lunch. Enter a hybrid, BLT mac and cheese! I found several possible recipes online and settled on one that both looked delicious and was healthy, to boot! Today’s recipe comes to you courtesy of Lisa Lillien, Food Network’s Hungry Girl.
To make sure the recipe was healthy I went with whole grain penne, uncured turkey bacon, fat-free sour cream and fat-free cream cheese. Because I know how very hideous low-fat and fat-free cheddar tastes, I went with Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar. Don’t scrimp on the full-fat cheese!
First, prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain, then set aside.
Prep your ingredients. Cut the zucchini into thick matchsticks, about 2″ long and 1/2″ thick. Chop the tomato and spinach. Cook the bacon (I microwaved it) and then chop. If you didn’t take the easy route and go with pre-shredded cheese (like me), shred your cheddar.
Grab the large pot you cooked your pasta in and spray it with Pam. Add the zucchini to the pot, then cover. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. After five minutes the zucchini should be nice and soft. Add the tomato and spinach and re-cover the pot. Cook for another three minutes or so (longer if there’s excessive liquid, which can happen when cooking tomatoes and spinach) then remove from heat.
Add the cooked pasta to the pot and stir to make sure everything’s nicely mixed.
Next, grab a medium-sized Pyrex (or other microwave-safe) bowl and add the cheddar and cream cheeses and the sour cream. Heat for 30 seconds, stir, then heat for another 30 seconds or until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Add the cheese mixture to the pasta/veggie pot and stir to combine.
Plate into the nearest bowl, top with crumbled bacon, and enjoy!
The verdict? Good, especially if eaten immediately. Not great, and definitely not very appetizing as leftovers (even when milk is added to make it creamy again). I’m hovering between 2.5 and three elbows for this one. The problem? Perhaps I went overboard trying to make it as healthy as possible. As we’ve all heard, fat = flavor…and while okay, this suffered in taste for all its righteous healthiness. Next time, I think I’ll try it with real bacon.
Here’s my recipe, adapted from Lisa Lillien.
- 3 slices bacon or uncured turkey bacon
- 1½ cups uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 2" by ½" matchsticks
- 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces fat-free cream cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the bacon (microwave, stovetop, or oven) and chop/crumble; set aside.
- Pam the pasta pot, then add the zucchini. Cook over medium heat, covered, until nice and soft.
- Add tomato and spinach, then re-cover the pot and cook for an additional three minutes or until any excess liquid is cooked off.
- Add the cooked penne to the pot and stir to combine.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, add the cheddar and cream cheeses and sour cream. Microwave for thirty seconds, stir, then heat for another thirty seconds or until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Add the cheese mixture to the pasta and veggies and stir to combine.
- Serve by plating into bowls and top with crumbled bacon.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
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