Dinner,  Easy,  Egg free,  Great for kids,  Healthy,  Lunch,  Nut free,  Refined sugar free,  Vegetarian

Nigella’s stunning sweet potato macaroni and cheese

Sweet potato macaroni and cheese in a white ramekin on a dark blue plate with some fresh vegetables.
Make this for dinner tonight… your kids will love it.

I will not lie.. I always have time to watch an episode of one of Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows or spend time reading her cookbooks. She amazes me with her attitude to food, the variety of the meals she makes and the joy with which she eats (and snacks late at night!).

Lately I have taken to watching her shows while I’m exercising and I easily forget that I am working out while planning what to cook next. Thank you, Nigella.

Best macaroni cheese

In the introduction to this recipe in her book Simply Nigella, Nigella says that this is the best macaroni cheese she has ever eaten. It is really this line which caught me line, hook and sinker. The kids have been asking me for some time to make macaroni and cheese for them but all I could think of was the awful American orange cheese version which I didn’t think was healthy or especially tasty, to be honest.

But if Nigella says this is the best macaroni cheese she has ever eaten, well then, count me in.

How I have changed the recipe

Though this is slightly sacrilegious (after all, this is a Nigella recipe), I have made a few changes to the original recipe – mostly because, knowing one of my children, if the macaroni cheese tasted “too much” like sweet potato, they would not eat it. The main addition to the ingredients list here is some bolognese sauce which makes the sweet potato taste milder and more palatable for picky eaters’ tastebuds. Try this is if you have a child like this at home too.

I’ve also added a sprinkle of grated mozzarella cheese on top, just because we love its gooey texture.

You can find the original recipe in Nigella’s Simply Nigella cookbook or online here.

Sweet potato macaroni and cheese in a white ramekin on a dark blue plate with some fresh vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 500 g sweet potatoes (or, if you’d like to try my version, 350 g sweet potatoes and about 1/4 of a jar of pre-made organic Bolognese sauce)
  • 300 g pennette (or other small, short pasta)
  • 4 tbsp (60 g) soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 500 ml full fat milk
  • 1 tsp english mustard (I have omitted this)
  • ¼ tsp paprika (plus another 1/4 teaspoon to sprinkle on top; I have omitted this)
  • 75 g feta cheese
  • 125 g mature cheddar (plus 25 g / quarter cup to sprinkle on top)
  • sprinkling of grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves (I have omitted this)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
Sweet potato macaroni and cheese in a white ramekin on a dark blue plate with some fresh vegetables.
Perfect size for kids’ school lunch too.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/gas mark 6/400°F. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into 2–3cm/1inch pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft.
  3. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.
  4. In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard (if using) and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding Cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.
  5. Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in. Mix in the Bolognese sauce in, if using.
  6. Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 125 g/1¼ cups grated Cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.
  7. Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes of approx. 375–425 ml/1½-1¾ cup capacity (or 1 large rectangular dish measuring approx. 30 x 20 x 5 cm/12 x 8 x 2 inches deep and 1.6 litre/6½-cup capacity). Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar (and mozzarella, if using) over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.
  8. Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30–35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.
Sweet potato macaroni and cheese in a white ramekin on a dark blue plate with some fresh vegetables.
Gone in a tic.

Nigella’s stunning sweet potato macaroni and cheese

Ingredients

  • 500 g sweet potatoes (or, if you’d like to try my version, 350 g sweet potatoes and about 1/4 of a jar of pre-made organic Bolognese sauce)
  • 300 g pennette (or other small, short pasta)
  • 4 tbsp (60 g) soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 500 ml full fat milk
  • 1 tsp english mustard (I have omitted this)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika (plus another 1/4 teaspoon to sprinkle on top; I have omitted this)
  • 75 g feta cheese
  • 125 g mature cheddar (plus 25 g / quarter cup to sprinkle on top)
  • sprinkling of grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves (I have omitted this)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/gas mark 6/400°F. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil.
  • Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into 2–3cm/1inch pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft.
  • Scoop them out of the water into a bowl and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.
  • In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard (if using) and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.
  • Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in. Mix in the bolognese sauce in, if using.
  • Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 125 g/1¼ cups grated Cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.
  • Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes of approx. 375–425 ml/1½-1¾ cup capacity (or 1 large rectangular dish measuring approx. 30 x 20 x 5 cm/12 x 8 x 2 inches deep and 1.6 litre/6½-cup capacity). Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar (and mozzarella, if using) over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.
  • Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30–35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.

Notes

As noted above, this recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe which you can find here.
You have found this delightful recipe on Once a Foodie – onceafoodie.com. It was lovely to see you. Please come visit again.

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