Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese has always been a childhood favorite.  Growing up a child of the 80s, I can never forget those ever-present blue boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese with the packets of fluorescent-orange powdered cheese, with easy-to-follow directions that my eight-year-old self could follow without much difficulty.  Even though those infamous boxes of mac & cheese were the beginning of my love/hate relationship with food, it also began my interest in cooking…

This updated version is very similar to most American-style mac & cheese, except for a few things – the inclusion of ground turkey (to add protein and texture), feta cheese (to add creaminess to the sauce and increase the protein content), and nutritional yeast (to enhance the cheesy flavor and increase the protein content).  Although my better self fought bitterly with my taste buds, I couldn’t resist throwing in the all-American processed cheese in the mix – as it turns out, American cheese makes a mac & cheese creamier compared to other traditional cheeses – and so I had to throw in a little “sinful pleasure” in the end.  So this recipe has a little bit of both – a little healthy, a little sinful, and all-around oh-so-delicious!

(makes 9 servings)

1 box gluten-free pasta (Barilla-brand recommended)
1 package 93/7 ground turkey (or 20.8 oz)
1 cup non-fat milk
8 slices American cheese
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
8 wedges Laughing Cow spreadable cheese (white cheddar flavor)
6 oz. non-fat feta cheese
4 oz. non-fat cream cheese
1 tsp. Smart Balance Light butter spread

1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1.  In a large pot, cook pasta until desired firmness.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside.  Drain pasta and set aside.
2.  In a large skillet under medium heat, spray pan with cooking oil and saute ground turkey. Season as desired with salt and pepper and cook until no juices appear in the skillet.  Set aside.
3. In a saucepan under medium-low heat, simmer milk, butter and nutritional yeast.  Gradually add American cheese and spreadable cheese and stir constantly, only adding one slice at a time until all cheese is melted and fully incorporated with the milk mixture.
4.  Add cream cheese and feta until cheese are is fully incorporated (please note – it is all right if the mixture slightly lumpy).  Pour pasta cooking water into mixture and stir until sauce has a gravy texture.
5.  Combine ground turkey and cheese sauce with pasta and stir until well-combined.

Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese

 

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