Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese is a crowd pleaser, and kid approved! A classic (but super-lightened-up) béchamel-inspired cheese sauce coats delicious corkscrew-shaped pasta and broccoli florets. Topped with a buttery layer of breadcrumbs and baked to cheesy perfection, this is total comfort food.
What you’ll need to make Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- pasta (I enjoy using a fun shape for this dish, like Cavatappi or Cellentani); they hold the sauce really well
- light butter
- all-purpose flour
- skim milk
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- kosher salt
- ground mustard
- fat free cheddar cheese
- Velveeta American cheese slices
- fresh broccoli florets
- panko breadcrumbs
How to make Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese
Like any good pasta dishes, start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. We will get back to this later.
Making a lightened-up Béchamel-style sauce
First, we have to make a lightened-up Béchamel-style sauce. I know, I know. “Are you serious?!”
A Béchamel-style sauce is a sauce that starts off with a roux made of butter and flour. This is ultimately used as a thickening agent for the milk that follows.
To make a lightened-up version, I start by melting light butter in a frying pan over medium heat. I then add my flour, and whisk everything together until it clumps. I know it doesn’t look promising, but believe me, it will all work out!
Cook the clumps for a minute or two, and then add the milk.
Whisk, whisk, whisk, making sure you are breaking down those clumps of flour as best you can. Cook this sauce for approximately 10 minutes until it thickens up significantly. Then, add your spices.
Stir in the spices, and then fold in the cheeses.
Remove the sauce from the heat until the pasta and broccoli is cooked/
Cooking the pasta and broccoli
Once your water is boiling, measure out and weigh your dry pasta. For this recipe, we are using 12 oz of pasta, weighed dry. This is enough to serve 6 people, at the recommended serving size of 2 oz per person.
When the water in boiling, drop your pasta in.
We are not going to cook the pasta fully here. Our goal is to cook it about 2 minutes shorter than what the box recommends. So, for the brand of pasta I used, it recommended 11 minutes. My pasta cooked for a total of 9 minutes.
Also, two minutes before the 9 minute mark, we are also going to add the broccoli to the same pot and boil it.
Once the 9 minute mark is reached, drain your pasta and broccoli. I use a slotted spoon for this, as opposed to draining it with a colander. This is to ensure that I save the pasta water, in case my sauce needs thickening.
Putting it all together
As you scoop the pasta and broccoli out of the water, add it directly into the pan with the sauce, and then toss everything to coat.
Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray, and then pour the mac and cheese in. Make sure the top is even.
In a small bowl, add the other tablespoon of butter and melt it. Then, add the panko breadcrumbs and stir them together. The mixture will resemble wet sand.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the casserole evenly. Then bake for 20 minutes.
Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- pasta pot
- large deep frying pan
- casserole dish
- 12 oz pasta measured dry, I used corkscrew shape
- 4 cups broccoli florets fresh
- 2 tbsp light butter divided
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups Kraft fat free cheddar
- 4 slices Velveeta American cheese
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Melt 1 tbsp of the light butter in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the 2 tbsp of flour, and whisk. The flour and butter will mix and form clumps.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the milk, whisking as you pour it in.
- Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking often to break down the clumps.
- Cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens significantly.
- Add the seasonings, stir to combine.
- Chop the American cheese slices into small pieces. Measure out 2 cups of the fat free cheddar.
- Add both cheeses to the mixture, whisking to help break them down and melt.
- Stir until all of the cheese has melted, then set aside until the pasta is done.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (This should be done simultaneously as the sauce is cooking so that they finish at the same time).
- Add the pasta; cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions advise. (For the corkscrew pasta I used, it recommended 11 minutes. So the total cook time for my pasta was 9 minutes).
- Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets.
- During the last two minutes of cooking, (in my example, 7 minutes in) add the broccoli florets to the water.
- If using frozen broccoli, it does not need to boil. Just defrost the florets and add them to the dish.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked pasta and broccoli from the pot and add them to the cheese sauce.
- Stir thoroughly so that all ingredients are well mixed.
- Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, and then pour the mac and cheese in. Smooth out the top.
- Add the remaining butter to a small bowl and melt it.
- Stir in the breadcrumbs. The mixture will resemble wet sand.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole dish and then pop it in the oven.
- Cook for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown.
- 9 WW points for 1.5 cups (all plans)
- 3 WW points for 1.5 cups (purple plan, if whole wheat pasta is used)
The serving size for this recipe is 1.5 cups. It is a generous portion, and I think it pairs well with a simple protein, like rotisserie chicken breast for a dinner!
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