I love homemade mac ’n’ cheese (or, in this case, penne ’n’ cheese) and wasn’t about to let a sprained wrist get in the way. Prechopped onions and mushrooms, preshredded cheese, and a garlic press meant I could make this without picking up a knife. A speedy sprinkling of toasted wheat germ takes the place of bread crumbs. You can use any vegetables and any blend of cheese you like—experiment to change up the flavor!
6 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons diced onion
One garlic clove, pressed or minced
One 8-ounce container sliced button or cremini mushrooms
Sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
4 ounces (1 cup) preshredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese (or any blend you like)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and return pasta to the pan you used to cook it. Set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add onion, and sauté two minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté thirty seconds or until fragrant. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sauté five minutes or until the mushrooms release their liquid and are slightly browned. Set aside.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add butter; cook until melted. Whisk in flour, and cook two minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk; cook one minute or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Whisk in nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add cheese and mushroom mixtures to cooked pasta, stirring to combine thoroughly.
Scrape pasta mixture into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle with wheat germ. Bake at 400°F for ten minutes or until bubbly.
(Originally published September 2010 on www.nourishnetwork.com)