Whether you’re making your mac with a traditional cheddar-cheese style sauce or a more inventive sauce of mixed cheeses, herbs, and add-ins, you can never do wrong by beefing up your sauce with puréed veggies. They’re full of fiber and antioxidants—and don’t forget, color and flavor—and, they can help you cut back on the amount of dairy, fat, and other creamy ingredients you’d otherwise need in your typical sauce.
Here are 9 puréed veggies to add to your homemade mac ‘n’ cheese, and how to do it.
Cook the veggies
Whatever veggies you choose to use, you’ll need to know how to cook them for your purée. Virtually any cooking method will do—boiling, roasting, and so on—but perhaps the most straightforward and diet-friendly is steaming. To steam your vegetables, simply chop them down to about 1-inch size, and gently steam in a steamer basket over simmering water until quite soft. The vegetable you use will dictate how long it needs to cook for: summer squash may cook up soft in just 3 or 4 minutes, while sweet potatoes may take up to 15.
If you don’t have/want to use a steamer basket, you can do without: Simply bring a shallow amount of water to a simmer in a medium- to deep-skillet, add vegetables, and cover. (The water in the skillet should be just enough to barely be covering the bottom of the vegetables in there.) Let cook until soft.
Of course, you can also use vegetables cooked another way: Roasted vegetables will have more depth of a savory flavor, and stir-fried vegetables will have more caramelized sweetness. The choice is yours how to cook your veggies, as long as you get them to be quite soft before puréeing.
Purée the veggies
To purée, you can either toss your cooked veggies into a food processor, or use an immersion blender to puree them right in the skillet (or transfer to a pot or bowl for more room). In either case, you will likely need to add a bit of liquid to the veggies to help them purée. Use water or broth for the most basic liquid, or use whatever creamy liquid ingredient you’re using in your cheese sauce (dairy or non-dairy milk, for example). Add just enough liquid as you purée to help the vegetables break down and get ultra-smooth. You’re not making a soup here, so take it slow when adding the liquid. Once the vegetables are soft, fluffy, and smooth, they’re ready.
Add the veggies
To use your puréed vegetables, simply stir them into your prepared cheese sauce before adding to your macaroni. You’ll find that, depending on how much vegetable purée you’ve made, you can cut back on the amount of cheese sauce you need by quite a bit! Now finish off your mac ‘n’ cheese as you like, by adding in all sorts of delicious and colorful fresh herbs and even more vegetables if you like.
Now that you’re ready to start, try any of these 9 no-brainer vegetables to purée and use in your mac ‘n’ cheese:
- Winter squash
- Summer squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Root vegetables (rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, etc.)
- White beans (technically not a vegetable, but still great to puree and add to a cheese sauce!)
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