This mac and cheese is hardly mac at all. In fact, instead of mac, or any type of pasta, this recipe uses parsnips. Of course, there’s plenty of cheese. But it’s also a much healthier take on the standard, and gluten-free to boot. With satisfying strips of parsnips, a light lemony tang, and Gruyere cheese, the recipe is a knockout. It’s also an easy option for a veggie-based family dinner, and a great way to get kids to enjoy their veggies.
The inspiration came from my friend, Alia Dalal. This fall she was named the Cooking Light Healthy Cook of the Year. The winning recipe? Her delicious zucchini and roasted tomato “mac” and cheese. As she refined the recipe, I was lucky enough to have a few bites, and they’ve stuck with me. So I thought I’d try and come up with a winter take on the recipe.
By the way, I’m looking forward to sharing some of Alia’s healthy recipes with you in the future, but for now check out this article on her big win at Taste of Atlanta.
Veggie “Mac” and Cheese (inspired by Alia Dalal)
2 lbs. parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2” x 1” strips
1 1/2 cups Gruyere, shredded
1 cup cheddar, shredded
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sweet white rice flour
1 cup milk
3/4 cup red onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup ground gluten-free crackers, such as Ener-G’s Gourmet Crackers
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the parsnips for 2 minutes. Dump into a colander, rinse with cold water, and set aside. Meanwhile, combine the onion and milk in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, when the milk has started to steam, turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Then empty the milk and onions into a bowl and set the saucepan aside for use in making the roux.
To make the roux, heat 2 tablespoons butter in your medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it is bubbling, whisk in the rice flour, and allow the mixture to bubble and brown for a minute. Next, strain the milk from the onions, and slowly whisk the milk into the roux. When all of the milk has been added and the mixture is nice and thick, add the cheese and turn off the heat. Add 2 teaspoons salt.
Spoon the parsnips into a large, buttered, baking dish. Sprinkle the parsnips with the lemon juice and add the onions. Fold in the cheese mixture on top and stir until combined.
In the same medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter is melted and bubbly, add the cracker meal and stir for a minute. Spoon the cracker meal on top of your casserole.
Place casserole in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until the casserole is nice and bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes and serve.