Recipe: Broccoli Mac

This recipe came about because Mum wanted homemade Mac & Cheese, and I wanted to feed them something vegetarian and that had some vegetables in it. Voila, Broccoli Mac was born. Bonus, this recipe makes three loaf pans, so you can freeze two for easy meals later.

Ingredients:
2 cups (or one 1lb box) whole wheat noodles (rotini or elbow is best)
2 lbs cheddar cheese, shredded
___ Broccoli florets (I don't know how much! A few handfuls? 2 medium heads?)
3 bread loaf pans
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste
Milk (not much, separated)

Directions:
1). Boil the noodles, and strain, saving the water if at all possible--READ THE NEXT STEP before you drain! [This water is great for your plants once it cools, or to poke some life into your compost pile over the winter when the water is still warm.]

2). Chop your broccoli into small florets. You want these to be able to fit in your mouth with noodles too, so don't go too big! If you can save the water easily, cook these florets separately right after you strain the noodles. If your system isn't set up for that, consider getting a new system, and toss the broccoli in for the last 2-3 minutes of the pasta's cooking time. They don't need to be cooked all the way, just about halfway so they're not too crunchy when they're baked.

3). Spray or butter the loaf pans. Put a THIN layer of noodles on the bottom, just enough to barely cover. Sprinkle with seasonings and a light layer of cheese.

4). Layer in a nice, thick layer of broccoli. Pack that stuff in there. Play Tetris with it. Make it double thick if you like. You don't need to leave much room at the top, especially on any you're going to freeze (I'll explain why later). Season to taste (go nuts with the garlic and pepper, easy on the salt--cheese it pretty salty). Light layer of cheese now!

5). Fill the pan with noodles. Mound it up a bit if you're going to freeze them, because they shrink considerably when that cold air dehydrates them. If cooking right now, go a little easier on the broccoli in the middle so you get a nice layer of pasta without having to squish it, and leaving a little room for cheese.

6). For cooking right now: Sprinkle a nice, thick layer of cheese on top, season (this is the only place I put salt), splash gently with a dash of milk (totally optional at this point) and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 until the cheese starts to brown all across the top.

7). For freezing: Skip that last layer of cheese, it won't cook right from frozen. Cover with foil and freeze. When you're ready to cook, DO NOT PREHEAT THE OVEN especially if you are using a glass dish. Pull off the foil gently (you'll be reusing it), top with cheese, season to taste (this is the only place I put salt), and drizzle in about a shot of milk of some kind. This liquid is necessary to rehydrate the noodles, which get pretty dry in the freezer, so don't skip it. Put the foil back on, put in the oven, and turn your oven to 375. When the cheese under the foil is completely melted (about 45 minutes), take the foil off so the cheese can brown (about another 15 minutes). You want to see bubbles boiling up the sides, that tells you it's heated through.

Total cooking time from frozen is about an hour. This makes 4 average adult servings. Really active adults, probably only three (or two and two kids portions). [vegetarian; pasta; batch]

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