Miso-Carrot Mac & Cheese

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If you're skeptical, just bear with me. The carrot flavour disappears and adds the familiar orange you expect from mac & cheese, and miso is a magical ingredient that adds saltiness and umami. I promise, this macaroni and cheese recipe does not taste like carrots and Japanese soup

We've made a number of new friends out of neighbours in the past year. I think when I talk about living in a high-rise apartment, many of my house-owning friends feel bad for me, but guys, I love it. It's so nice having so much community. I feel so safe having so many humans around.  I walk everywhere, literally everywhere, and run into people I know left, right and centre. Our building has lots of young families, and it's been lovely making friends who live at arm's reach. Our neighbours are all warm and kind, and so many new friendships have been forged around coffees and glasses of wine and meals in each other's apartments. It is so nice. 

I feel like in our 20s, we were all still unsure of ourselves and not really eager to open our homes up to new friends.  I haven't figured out if it's gained confidence with being in my 30s now, or if having kids just reduced my brain's capacity for anxiety over stupid things, but everything is simpler now. I don't stress about much anymore, especially not something as silly as inviting people over - but I do remember that used to really feel like a lot of pressure. 

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Even though I don't build up the expectations in my mind like I did when I was younger, I still end up doing my most fun, most relaxed entertaining spontaneously and off the cuff, without too much thinking or planning. I made this recipe for casual dinner with friends a while ago, when I thought I had nothing at all in the fridge. I love something-from-nothing meals.  I have this tub of miso paste staring at me from the fridge and it was driving me crazy that I didn't use it more often. It's got such a great depth and savouriness without having an over-powering flavour. So I've been whisking it into all kinds of sauces and dressings and gravies where it technically has no business, and of course, mac & cheese. So good. Try it! And try dinner with new friends, too :) 

Note: for the carrots, peel and slice them, just barely cover them with water in a saucepan over high heat, then cook until very tender before draining and pureeing in a blender or food processor. 

See also Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese - it's a fav among my kids and their friends (and me)!

Miso-Carrot Mac & Cheese
  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 6Servings

Ingredients

For Macaroni & Cheese

  • 3/4 lb (340 g) penne or elbow macaroni
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) shredded cheddar cheese, or a combination of cheddar and gruyere
  • 1 cup cooked, pureed carrots (see cooking note above), from about 4 medium carrots
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • salt, to taste

For Topping

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente (for elbow macaroni, that's about 7 minutes, for penne, more like 10). Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, a bit at a time.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and cook until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Place the miso paste in a small bowl and slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot sauce until completely blended. Whisk this miso mixture into the rest of the sauce. Add shredded cheese, whisking until smooth. Whisk in carrot puree, pepper, and salt to taste. Add pasta to the sauce and stir to evenly coat. Transfer pasta to a buttered 2 quart (2 litre) baking dish.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over pasta. Transfer dish to oven and bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 20 minutes.