Macaroni and cheese can fit in a healthy lifestyle, but not all macaroni and cheese is the same. Full disclosure, this macaroni and cheese has full fat cheese and real butter--you can pry those both from my cold, dead hands. I know that low fat and fat free cheese exists, but what makes this the best light macaroni and cheese recipe is the fact I use the real stuff. Adapted from my long requested and family favorite macaroni and cheese, this macaroni and cheese is 8 Weight Watchers smart points and only 271 calories per serving.
What kind of cheese for mac and cheese?
I use three types of cheese in my Best Light Macaroni and Cheese recipe: sharp cheddar, part skim mozzarella, and Velveeta. Yes, I use Velveeta. Velveeta or cream cheese adds an additional creaminess to macaroni and cheese. If you prefer not to eat Velveeta, just use cream cheese instead. I like the mellow cheesiness from Velveeta and it pairs will with the cheddar. If it's good enough for the Pioneer Woman, it's good enough for me.
I know it's a pain, but you have to shred the cheddar yourself. Pre-shredded cheese does not melt as well and the flavor is better from block cheese. It is essential.
How to make a cheese sauce for mac and cheese
This recipe starts with a roux which is equal parts butter and flour. Cook the two together while whisking and slowly add your milk. You have to whisk while stirring in your milk so it thickens smoothly without any lumps. Bring that mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Fold in the cheese to the pot of simmering cream sauce at a simmer or even completely off heat. If you add this to a high heat, the cheese will break and it's hard (not impossible) to fix that.
Weight Watchers Mac and Cheese
Like I said, not only is this the best light macaroni and cheese but it is pretty Weight Watchers friendly at only 8 smart points on blue and green (5 on purple using whole wheat pasta). For whole wheat pasta, my go-to pasta is Delallo elbows; this is the least grainy tasting whole wheat and it cooks light enough kids don't notice. For blue and green plans, I use Barilla Protein Plus elbows.
You can make this even lighter in a few ways. As you'll see, I add 1.5 pounds of pasta to this recipe. I also top the macaroni and cheese with 4 additional ounces of cheddar. If you omit the cheddar, you can shave off one point. You could also add cooked broccoli and chicken (you'll need about 6-7 cups) instead of the additional half pound of pasta which will keep the quantity the same but lower the points. My kids wouldn't eat this if I added a bunch of vegetables to "hide" in the cheese sauce. We're not there yet.
Make Ahead Mac and Cheese
This mac and cheese can be made ahead. Add an extra cup of milk (or chicken stock) so the pasta doesn't soak it all up. You may need to adjust your seasonings. Get the whole macaroni and cheese assembled and top it with cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, pop it in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes (covered). Remove the aluminum foil and broil to get the cheese bubbly.
This makes a great dish to send over to a loved one and pairs really well with my pulled pork. If you are making this, calories and caution to the wind, double the butter, use heavy cream or whole milk, and add another 4 ounces of cheese. Same cooking method and time.
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 4 tbsp flour, all-purpose
- 5 cup cashew milk (or your preferred milk)
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1.50 tbsp, Wing Sauce
- 4 oz Velveeta Cheese
- 8 oz, sharp cheddar (divided)
- 2 oz part-skim mozzarella
- 1.5lb. 100% Whole Wheat Elbows (or preferred pasta see post)
- kosher salt
- Boil pasta in salted water (ocean saltiness) and cook 2 minutes under al dente if baking. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- In a separate pot/pan, cook butter and flour together making a roux. Whisk while cooking on medium heat for 1 minute.
- Slowly pour milk into roux while whisking. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
- Add dijon mustard and hot sauce to milk and whisk.
- Add Velveeta to milk and whisk until melted.
- Mix in 4 ounces of cheddar and mozzarella.
- Taste sauce and season accordingly to taste. I usually add a big heaping pinch of salt. This depends entirely on your taste and the cheese you are using.
- Spray baking dish with cooking spray and add noodles. Pour cheese sauce on top and mix. If the sauce is not creamy enough, you can loosen the sauce with the reserved pasta water (or more milk).
- Add remaining cheddar to the top and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Finish with a light broil (optional).
- If not baking, add the remaining cheddar after mixing the cheese sauce and noodles and fold in before serving.
nutritional information calculated on My Fitness Pal and using Delallo Whole Wheat Pasta
Serving Size:3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 271Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 334mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 5gSugar: 1gProtein: 11g
Looking for other Weight Watchers friendly comfort food?
I got you. Here's some of my favorites.