Macaroni and cheese, for me, is the epitome of comfort food. Hot, cheesy, and nostalgic, it’s something my mouth would happily every day. Typically, however, it’s not a particularly healthy meal so I don’t make it often. I have my childhood favorite, the Gruyere version already on here, but when I saw this slightly lighter and more vegetable-forward recipe I knew I had to try it.
Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables and since they go so well with everything, I knew they’d be an excellent addition to mac and cheese. Using this opportunity to christen the cast iron skillet I got on Black Friday, I made a few adjustments ended up with a recipe I might like even more than the one I grew up with.
Since I prefer the crispiness and light charring from the oven, I opted to roast my sprouts separately. This not only maintains the flavor profile I prefer, but allows you to make the streamline the process a little bit since you can start the sauce while they are baking. Cut them into bite-sized pieces (probably halves or quarters) and they will bake quite promptly.
With some homemade venison & pork Italian sausage in the freezer, and smoked Gouda in the fridge (thanks, Costco), I opted to incorporate both into this recipe. I love the creaminess of Gouda and the smokiness blends perfectly with the sausage. My version has a little kick, so with a bit of paprika added to the sauce the whole thing comes together very creamy and just a little spicy. The roasted sprouts bring a little color, a complementary flavor, and an extra nutrient boost to the whole dish.
Despite being slightly lightened with the use of almond milk, the sauce is still thick and creamy, just the way I like it. You can make your own with different spices, or keep it simple with just salt and pepper. I didn’t add any in this round, but I think some baby spinach would stir in nicely.
I topped mine with additional cheese and popped it under the broiler, but if I’m honest this step really didn’t feel necessary. You do you, but if you are crunched for time it’s 100% okay to skip it. (I will probably skip it in the future.) Alternatively, if you’re a die-hard crumb topping fan, you can finish the dish with that instead.
The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes, which makes it just as great for weeknights as it is for meal-prep days. If you have leftovers, it reheats great in the microwave with a splash of extra milk, remembering to stir a couple times to keep it creamy.
PS – This recipe is easily made vegetarian; just skip the sausage and use 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil for the sauce instead.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
8 ounces pasta of choice
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 lb Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
2 cups milk (or unsweetened substitute, I used almond)
6 oz smoked Gouda, shredded (or cheese of choice)
1 tsp (smoked) paprika
2 oz smoked Gouda, shredded
freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On a baking sheet, add 2 Tbsp oil, garlic powder, and Brussels sprouts. Use your hands to toss until sprouts are well coated, then spread evenly on the pan.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, to desired crispiness. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, boil noodles to al dente according to your pasta’s directions. Drain and set aside.
- Also meanwhile, in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until browned. Remove the sausage to a paper towel and drain all but 2 Tbsp of the oils.
- Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Whisk in the flour and continue to cook until a paste forms, about 30 seconds.
- Slowly stream in the milk, whisking constantly until smooth, then add the paprika.
- Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce back to medium and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce has thickened like a gravy, stir in the cheese until completely melted. (Depending on the type of cheese, this can take a bit; cheddar melts much faster than Gouda.) Add additional spices as desired.
- Fold in the Brussels sprouts, sausage, and pasta until well mixed.
- Serve as is, or top with additional shredded cheese and broil until melted and golden.
1 Would also be great with some sautéed or fried spinach!
2 To reheat leftovers, add a splash of additional milk and heat in the microwave, stirring every minute or so, until creamy and hot.