Mac and cheese: the undisputed king of comfort food. Over the years, we've tested dozens of iterations of the classic—spiked with chiles, topped with bacon, toned down with non-fat cheese. However, we keep returning to this formula: a béchamel base, laced with extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, and finished with a bit of yogurt to give the sauce that perfect texture. Are there more decadent bowls of mac? Absolutely—but not for under 400 calories.
Nutrition: 360 calories, 16 g fat (8 g saturated), 560 mg sodium
2 cups elbow macaroni, fusilli, or cavatappi pasta
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups 2% milk
11⁄2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan (Note: Real Italian Parmesan is called Parmigiano-Reggiano, and its sharp, nutty flavor has nothing in common with the stuff you shake from a green can. It may be a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way, so it's worth getting the authentic version.)
1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs
Black pepper to taste
How to Make It
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain and reserve.
- While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Simmer the béchamel for 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken to the consistency of heavy cream.
- Stir in the Cheddar and 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan, and cook until completely melted.
- Cut the heat and stir in the yogurt. Add the pasta and toss to evenly coat.
- Preheat the broiler. Pour the macaroni and cheese into an 8" x 8" baking dish (or into individual ramekins). Top with the bread crumbs and the remaining Parmesan and season with black pepper. Place on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bread crumbs are golden brown.
Eat This Tip
Yes, this mac and cheese is fantastically low in calories when compared with restaurant and frozen versions out there, but that being said, there is always room for improvement. Cut calories by swapping in low-fat cheese for the full-fat Cheddar; add fiber by using whole wheat or fortified pasta (we like Ronzoni Smart Taste) instead of white noodles; and boost nutrition by stirring in steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, or even a few scoops of salsa.
This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!