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Recipe Redux: Beef Mac and Cheese Casserole can be healthy

Dietitian Becky Varner gives classic beef macaroni and cheese a healthful makeover.
BY BECKY VARNER Published: October 24, 2012

Some casseroles are high in fat and calories because of the ingredients used. We have modified a classic Macaroni and Cheese with Beef recipe to make it lower in fat and calories. Here's what we did:

We used 93 percent lean-7 percent fat ground beef instead of 80 percent lean-20 percent fat ground beef.

We used the juice from the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, honey and seasonings for the sauce and sprinkle the casserole with cheese made with 2 percent fat milk instead of using a cream sauce made with butter, whole milk, flour, seasonings and whole milk cheese.

We also used whole wheat pasta instead of regular to provide a serving of whole grain instead of a refined grain.

These modifications resulted in a savings of 147 calories per serving and a savings of 23 grams of fat per serving.

Original Classic Macaroni and Cheese with Beef Casserole Recipe

2 cups regular macaroni

8 cups hot water

1 pound 80-20 ground beef

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon garlic

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons mustard

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Modified Macaroni and Cheese with Beef Casserole Recipe

2 cups (8 ounces) whole grain wheat macaroni

8 cups hot water

1 pound 93-7 fat ground beef

2 cups water

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried basil

4 cups diced canned tomatoes

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese made with 2 percent fat milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 11 inch baking dish with a nonstick cooking spray.

Bring 8 cups water to a boil and add macaroni. Bring to boil again and cook 7-9 minutes, until tender but not overcooked. When done, place pasta in colander and drain.

While pasta is cooking, place beef in skillet and heat to medium heat. Add 2 cups of water and cook meat, breaking apart as it cooks. Stir occasionally while cooking. When beef is thoroughly cooked pour remaining liquid in a small jar.*

Add garlic, pepper, cumin, paprika, basil, tomatoes, vinegar and honey and simmer for flavors to blend for a few minutes until most of the juice from the tomatoes has evaporated.

Add cooked pasta and stir to mix.

Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is set.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 8 servings. Each serving contains approximately 254 calories and 7 grams fat.

Cook's notes: Adding a simple green salad with a light dressing and a dessert of fruit with yogurt provides something from every food group in MyPlate.

*Allow liquid to reach room temperature, cover and refrigerate. When cold, the fat will surface and can easily be removed. The remaining defatted stock can be added in soups or to season vegetables. Use within a couple of days or freeze for later use.

SOURCE: Becky Varner


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