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This broccoli mac and cheese irresistibly creamy and the best way to make this classic! Mix in your side dish in for an easy one-pot dinner.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese
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The best way to eat mac and cheese, in our opinion? Broccoli mac and cheese! Why eat broccoli on the side when you can stir it right in? This makes a tasty one pot meatless meal that kids and adults alike will go mad for. It comes out creamy, cheesy, and loaded with broccoli for a dose of nutrients and fiber. What’s not to love? This one’s on our regular rotation over here: we and our kids adore it!

Ingredients in this broccoli mac and cheese

Mac and cheese can be part of a healthy, balanced diet when it’s eaten in moderation and served with a balance of fruits and vegetables: so why not through your broccoli right in? This recipe is an exercise in that balance: it’s got a bit less cheese than the standard mac and cheese recipe, and it’s got broccoli to balance the carbs out with fiber. Of course, you can have your broccoli on the side if you prefer it that way: and it’s just as good. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Pantry ingredients: Short pasta like macaroni or shells (we used cavatappi), olive oil, flour, salt, Italian panko (for serving)
  • Fresh ingredients: Broccoli
  • Dairy: Butter, milk, Mozzarella cheese, Cheddar cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese

The panko is optional, but we like to top with seasoned breadcrumbs! Italian panko are seasoned with Italian herbs and salt. You can also use them instead of croutons, like in this Kale Caesar Salad.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese

A secret ingredient: Pecorino Romano

The secret ingredient in this broccoli mac and cheese? Pecorino Romano cheese! Pecorino Romano is an aged cheese with a very salty, savory flavor. This cheese has long been one of our favorite types of cheese to use because it’s so flavorful. It especially transforms vegetarian dishes because of its intensely savory flavor.

All you need are two tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano here, and it makes all the difference! Try not to leave it out. (We tried once and it didn’t taste nearly as delicious!) You should be able to find it at your local grocery store in either grated or shredded containers. If you can’t find it, use Parmesan cheese and a few more pinches of salt. 

Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Why add broccoli to mac and cheese?

Of course, you can eat the broccoli on the side of mac and cheese, or a side salad! But this healthy mac and cheese actually very tasty with the broccoli intermixed. Here’s why we like it:

  • The contrast in texture helps you slow down while eating it. Ever feel like you can quickly inhale a mountain of mac and cheese? The different texture of broccoli helps us to slow down and enjoy each bite, making it a more satisfying meal and helping us eat a reasonable portion size.
  • Broccoli adds fiber. There’s no fiber in noodles. But 1 cup of broccoli adds 2.4 grams fiber, which is 5 to 10% of your daily need (this is the amount in one serving of the mac and cheese).
  • Broccoli also adds nutrients. It is high in nutrients like iron, folate, potassium, manganese, and vitamins C and K1.

Sides for broccoli mac and cheese

This healthy broccoli and cheese is part of our regular repertoire — our 6 year old in particular loves it! And so do we. Here are a few kid friendly and adult friendly side dish ideas to pair with it for an easy weeknight:

Healthy Mac and Cheese

More mac and cheese recipes

We’ve got traditional mac and cheese recipes too! Here are a few of our top favorite ways to make this classic:

This broccoli mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

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Healthy Mac and Cheese

Broccoli Mac and Cheese


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

This broccoli mac and cheese irresistibly creamy and the best way to make this classic! Mix in your side dish in for an easy one-pot dinner.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni, shells or other short cut pasta (if desired, use gluten-free or legume pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups small florets of broccoli (2 heads)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup 2% milk
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or 1 cup cheddar)
  • 2 tablespoons grated or shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (don’t omit!*)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Italian seasoned panko, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, (about 8 minutes; start tasting a few minutes before your package instructions indicate). 
  2. Cut the broccoli into very small florets. In a large saucepan, add a drizzle of olive oil and heat on medium high. Add the broccoli and cook for 4 minutes until tender, then add a splash of water and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook 2 minutes more until bright green and tender. Remove the broccoli from the pan (and wipe it out if necessary).
  3. In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the shredded mozzarella, cheddar and Pecorino Romano cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the ½ teaspoon salt. (If the sauce is too sticky, you can add ¼ cup more milk to get a creamier texture.) 
  4. Add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce, stirring to combine, and heat just until the pasta is warmed through. Taste and add the remaining ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. If desired, sprinkle with Italian panko and serve. 

Notes

*This is the secret flavor maker. Pecorino Romano is an aged cheese similar to Parmesan, but saltier and more savory. If you can’t find it, use Parmesan cheese and a few more pinches of salt. 

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    So good! Needed much more liquid (didn’t measure but I’m guessing I added 1/2-1 c more water) but it was tasty and easy!

  2. Dina Lindia says:

    I have to start off with making it very clear, I am not a fan of broccoli or Mac and cheese from scratch. I’m talking, all set, no thanks, better luck next time type of hater! Lol

    This was delicious! I could of sat and eaten the whole pan full!!! It pleased my oldest (44), I mean my husband…ha! My youngest, (16), I had to tell to leave some for the rest of us! Thank you for sharing this easy recipe! I stayed it right after putting shake and bake chops in the oven and everything was done and ready, at the same time!! That says allot, especially when trying a recipe for the first time; I feel a recipe always takes the longest the guest time!

    Anyway, just wanted to give you a shout out and a thank you for sharing!

    The only thing I omitted was panto, we were having shake and bake so the need for crunch wasn’t necessary. Also, I used all cheddar and ended up adding few more tablespoons of milk.

  3. Stef says:

    Thank you so very much for your Recipe!!! I absolutely love this Recipe!
    I did put my own little twist into it, as it was a little to Thick there in the End, I’ve added instead to the extra 1/4 cup of Milk, more like an extra 1/2 Cup of the Milk. Then at the very End I also added about 1/4 Cup of the salted Pasta Water (saved from Boiling the Macaroni Pasta) mixed it up real good and it ended up super Delicious! As the Pasta Water was Salted there was no need for any extra Salt other than as directed. I certainly will give this Recipe 5 Stars!!!






  4. Sandie Robinson says:

    Wow! great recipe. I substituted Anthony’s Cheese Powder for the cheddar, and used Oat Milk. Added some diced ham I needed to use up. We thoroughly enjoyed this recipe.






  5. Gail Libby says:

    Could you post the nutrition values for this recipe?

  6. Isabel R says:

    Such a cool recipe! I never cook mac and cheese but will surely try this healthier variation! Thanks :)