Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese #SundaySupper #FamilyDinnerTable

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese is an easy, cheesy pasta recipe made without any butter, yet remains smooth and creamy.   Roasted tomatoes, with a hint of balsamic and garlic, as well as garlic breadcrumbs are an optional topping to give this basic dish a grown-up twist!

This week, Sunday Supper has teamed up with American Family Insurance again as part of their Back to the Family Dinner Campaign.  The theme is ‘meals made with cheese.’   I could not think of a more perfect theme for my family of cheese lovers!   While I had several cheesy recipes in mind, nothing beats a basic macaroni and cheese.  Well nothing, except for this Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese recipe with a grown-up twist made in less than 30 minutes!  In fact, this recipe is one of the first meals we have been able to enjoy as a family, with everybody eating the same thing.  This Back to the Family Dinner Campaign is working!!

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese topped with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Breadcrumbs

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese is a simple recipe made a little bit healthier.  While there is a generous helping of cheese, this recipe is made without any butter.  Instead it uses fat free evaporated milk , which helps make the sauce smooth and creamy while keeping the fat and calories in check.

When trying to cook a healthier Mac and Cheese recipe, it is important to not have to skimp on the cheese (or use a fake cheese).   I often use evaporated milk in place of cream or half and half to lighten up recipes (like in this Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta) so why not Mac and Cheese.   Another tip when adding the cheese to this recipe, it is important to cook low and slow.  If the cheese is cooked on too high a heat, it can end up hard and/or stringy.

While this Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese is perfect as-is (and how Adam prefers it), I wanted to give the  dish a grown-up twist for Mike and me.  I quickly tossed together some Roasted Tomatoes with a hint of balsamic vinegar and garlic and also a garlic breadcrumb topping.  Both toppings are optional, but delicious and a super easy way to dress up the dish.  There are lots of moving parts, but everything, including tomatoes and breadcrumbs, can come together in less than 30 minutes!   Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese is a quick, easy, super cheesy dinner the whole family will enjoy!

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese topped with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Breadcrumbs

For more family-friendly recipe ideas, be sure to visit American Family’s Back to the Family Dinner Table board on Pinterest.  And if you’re a cheese lover, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to CHEESE!

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese
Yields: 6 servings
For the Roasted Tomatoes:
  • 2 to 3 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of salt
For the Garlic Breadcrumbs:
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch salt
For the Mac and Cheese:
  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni (or any short pasta)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can fat free evaporated milk
  1. FOR THE TOMATOES: Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss tomatoes with oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and then spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes.
  2. FOR THE BREADCRUMBS: Heat oil in a medium, nonstick skillet and add breadcrumbs and garlic. Stir frequently until breadcrumbs begin to brown and garlic is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. FOR THE MAC AND CHEESE: In a large sauce pan, cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, drain and put back in the sauce pan over medium-low heat.
  4. Add cheese, egg, salt, cayenne and milk, stirring constantly and cook for 4 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  5. PUT IT TOGETHER: Serve mac and cheese in a bowl and top with tomatoes and breadcrumbs.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, January, 2005

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This post is sponsored by American Family Insurance. All opinions are my own.

Lighter Stove-top Mac and Cheese topped with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Breadcrumbs


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  1. Oh my goodness, Alida. You have combined my favorite (savory) flavors into one supreme meal. So wonderful too that you were able to eliminate the butter but keep the tastiness of a true mac ‘n cheese =)

  2. My parents always made mac and cheese on the stovetop. Your post brought back so many memories of me as a kid watching them stir it and the cheese melting and covering the macaroni. I really like your addition of roasted tomatoes too.

  3. Yay for a lightened mac and cheese recipe. Those garlic breadcrumbs sound like a must to me.

  4. I could always use a lighter version of one of my favorite dishes, Alida!

  5. Oh my goodness, I need this lighter version of mac and cheese at our house. What a fabulous recipe!

  6. Great recipe, and I particularly like your choice of pasta shape, and the balsamic-y tomatoes too!

  7. This is definitely a dish that my whole family would get behind, too – I love the grown-up version! 🙂

  8. I could eat homemade mac and cheese every day if not for the heavy dose of calories! But you’ve come up with a delicious solution…plus your stove top version is gorgeous with the addition of roasted tomatoes!

  9. The tomatoes and balsamic sound fantastic! Love the combination of tossing them in with the pasta. Yum!