Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe

Last week I posted on Facebook about a new food I tried… chickpea pasta! People seemed to be intrigued, so I thought I’d turn it into a recipe post. The specific product I’d bought was a box of macaroni and cheese. Being the tweaker that I am (tweaker, NOT twerker!), I decided to upgrade the macaroni and cheese to make it a more balanced meal. I threw in a ton of veggies and some chicken, and it became something my whole family really enjoyed! So today I wanted to share with you what I did to create this Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe. Enjoy!

Chickpea Pasta?

First, this is the product I used that started it all: Banza chickpea macaroni and cheese.
(Link is for a pack of 6 boxes, but you can find individual boxes on their site, or in most grocery stores now.)

I used the cheese sauce in the box, and it was totally fine (and still enough, even though I added a TON of stuff to the basic box contents). However, next time, I think I’ll just get the regular box of pasta, either chickpea or regular, and make my own cheese sauce. I’ll include that as an option below.

How does chickpea pasta compare to regular?

The Banza website says it has “double the protein, four times the fiber, and nearly half the net carbs.” It’s also gluten-free, so if you have to avoid gluten, then it’s a great option regardless of how it compares to wheat pasta! But for those of us who don’t have to avoid gluten, how does it stack up?

I’ll compare 3 pastas… the Banza, the kind I usually use: Barilla Protein Plus, and the regular Barilla macaroni (For comparison sake, I’m comparing the plain elbow macaroni version of each kind. The macaroni and cheese nutrition label for the product I actually used differs from the one below because it includes the cheese sauce.)

healthy mac and cheese label 1

Banza

healthy mac and cheese label 2

Barilla Protein Plus

healthy mac and cheese label 3

Regular Barilla

So if we compare a 2oz serving: 

  • Banza has 190 cals, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs (8g fiber, so 24g net carbs), and 14g protein.
  • Barilla Plus has 190 cals, 2g fat, 38g carbs (4g fiber, so 34g net carbs), and 10g protein.
  • Regular Barilla has 200 cals, 1g fat, 42g carbs (2g fiber, so 40g net carbs), and 7g protein.

So yes, the chickpea pasta claims are true. It DOES have twice the protein of regular pasta, 4 times the fiber, and about half the net carbs. All for about the same calories. Pretty cool!

Okay, back to the Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe!

This meal is like the poster child for using up leftovers and freezer stuff.

The chicken and broccoli were re-purposed from the previous night’s dinner (which was just a simple mix-n-match type dinner of marinated baked chicken breast, roasted broccoli and roasted butternut squash). The rest of the veggies were just frozen veggies that had been in the freezer. I had about a cup of frozen corn and half a large package of a veggie medley on hand.

Obviously, if you don’t have leftover already-cooked chicken, this recipe will take a little longer, since you’ll have an extra cooking step. But it’s still a really quick one to throw together. I tend to bake chicken while I do other things, so even though it looks like a 30-minute time-sink, you can use that time to prep other stuff and it doesn’t usually add much to the overall time.

Please let me know if you try this recipe, and what you think of it!

A healthy mac and cheese recipe! A ton of veggies, some chicken, and gluten-free chickpea pasta make this a delicious, nutritious, and super easy meal.

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Feel free to share this too! 🙂

Healthy Mac and Cheese (with veggies, chicken, and chickpea pasta!)

Mac and cheese gets a healthy upgrade, with the addition of a ton of veggies, some chicken, and gluten-free chickpea pasta. An easy meal to make any night of the week!

  • 2 boxes of Banza chickpea pasta mac and cheese ((or a box of regular pasta plus homemade cheese sauce, below))
  • ½ small pkg frozen corn ((about 1 -1.5 cups))
  • ½ large package frozen veg medley ((about 5-6 cups) Mine had peas, green beans, lima beans, and carrots)
  • 3 cups cooked broccoli florets, (chopped)
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, (cooked and cubed)

For homemade cheese sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste (and any other seasonings you like!)
  1. Boil the pasta in a large pot according to package directions
  2. While the pasta cooks, steam the frozen veggies in a large covered casserole dish in the microwave for about 5 minutes, or according to package directions. Just be careful not to overcook them.
  3. Drain the pasta when done, and return the empty pot to the stove.
  4. Put the broccoli and chicken into the pot, stirring to warm them up
  5. Drain the microwaved veggies, if necessary, and add them to the pot.
  6. Add the drained pasta and the cheese sauce packets (or homemade cheese sauce)
  7. Stir to get everything incorporated, then serve and enjoy!

Homemade Cheese Sauce:

  1. In a smaller pot, melt 2 Tbsp of butter.

  2. Stir/whisk in 2 Tbsp of flour and keep whisking until slightly thickened.

  3. Slowly add 1 cup milk, while whisking. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens.

  4. Turn off the heat, then add 1 cup (or more if you like) shredded cheddar cheese, stirring to incorporate.

  5. Taste, and add salt and pepper (and any other seasonings) if needed.

  6. Add to above recipe at the end!

Since I used the cheese sauce packet from the box, I’m not sure how much cheese sauce you’d have to make for this recipe. It’s possible you may have to double this. I plan to make my own sauce next time, so I’ll come back and edit this if needed once I do!)

Recipe serves 6-8

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