When Jessica at How Sweet It Is made her Better Than Crack Brownies a few months back, I also made them the very next day and commented to her how I was just going to start making whatever she makes since I love everything that she cooks. (That would make it easy for me on deciding what to make to eat every day, right?)
Anyway, last week she posted a recipe for Autumn Mac & Cheese that just screamed to me to make it. If you follow Jessica's blog, you already know that she's a self-proclaimed hater of almost all veggies, especially green ones. So when we (her readers) started noticing Brussels sprouts popping up again and again in her recipes, many of us were obviously concerned that someone may have hijacked her blog and taken it over, and that she was tied up in her basement with Mr. How Sweet. As it turns out, she's learning to love vegetables and is teaching the rest of us a thing or two about how to prepare them and what to put them with to accentuate (hide) them in her recipes. Smart cookie that girl, and FUNNY!
I changed up this recipe enough to feel I have the right to post it here, mostly because I roasted all my veggies and I have a different method of making my cheese sauce that includes Velveeta (*GASP*) but please check out her healthier version if you're trying to cut back on the fat and calories. I make mac and cheese once a year, so I go all out when I do make it, but I feel that the extreme amount of vegetables in this recipe might at least garner me a lesser penance when I hit the Confessional. (Forgive me Father for I have used bacon grease and Velveeta.) Well worth the ten Hail Mary's, I say.
Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese (adapted from How Sweet It Is)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, small cube
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
1 red bell pepper, seeded, quartered
1/2 red onion, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cups pasta (1/2 lb) cooked per package directions
6 oz center cut bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 TBSP flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounce velveeta, small cubed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crushed buttery crackers (I used Town House)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Place sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, red pepper and onion in a large bowl and drizzle them with the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Stir well and spread vegetables in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. *NOTE* I left the red pepper and red onion in larger pieces because they roast more quickly than the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Place veggies in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting time. Remove from oven and dice the red peppers and onions. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and place all vegetables in dish.
While veggies are roasting, boil the pasta and prepare the sauce. In a large skillet fry bacon pieces until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towel. Reserve 3 TBSP of the bacon grease. If you don't have 3 TBSP add butter or olive oil to equal 3 TBSP. Return skillet to stove and over medium heat add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute for just a minute or two, then sprinkle flour into grease and stir well to combine. Cook flour for two minutes, forming a roux. Add the milk and half & half, then raise the heat a bit and whisk until thickened and smooth. Reduce heat again and slowly start to add the shredded cheddar a bit at a time until melted and combined. Add the Velveeta and whisk it into sauce until melted and smooth. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and stir well to combine.
Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
Pour pasta and sauce over vegetables and gently stir to combine all ingredients. Combine crushed cracker crumbs and reserved bacon and sprinkle over casserole. Place casserole dish on baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned and bubbly.