Mac 'n Cheese

Ok, maybe 'healthy' is overselling it a little, but at least this version contains nearly all the food groups and definitely has more veggies than the average. I like to tell myself that makes a difference.

Macaroni - with its fair share of cheese - has been in my family as far back as I can remember, but my mother knows better. She first made it as a student, when pasta was far from common at Dutch dinner tables. The instructions told her to prepare each of the ingredients, one by one. She followed them to the letter and served them all separately. 

healthy mac 'n cheese

Luckily for us, her macaroni has come a way since then. When I left home, I took my mother's recipe with me and added a touch of my own here and there. The current version is a comfort food I'm happy to make in over-sized quantities and eat as leftovers for days.

Ingredients (serves 2 with leftovers):
1.5 cups macaroni 
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/2 leek
2 medium-size onions
150g ham (I used York ham)
1.5 tbsp sweet Indonesian soy sauce (like ABC sauce)
4 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp oregano
salt to taste
* cheese to top (as much as you like!): when it comes to cheese, my philosophy is usually: the more, the better. No harm in mixing it up, either. In Mexico, I used manchego, which is soft of flavour andmelts nicely, together with parmesan. In the Netherlands, manchego is hard to come by so I went for gouda, which I had in my fridge. Crumbling some mozarella over it would also have worked well.


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Chop the onion and bell pepper into cubes.

3. Place onion in a pan with olive oil and sautée until glazed, then add paprika and leek and sautée for a few minutes more (if you overdo it with the bell pepper, it loses its crunch. Fresher = better).

4. In the meantime, boil the macaroni in a separate pan, for timing see the instructions on your packet.

5. When the macaroni is done, drain and toss in with the onion, pepper and leek. Add the sweet Indonesian soy sauce, ketchup, basil, oregano and salt. (Up until this step, you can do it all in advance - the day before even, it keeps fine in the fridge)

6. Transfer to an oven dish and cover with cheese - you can place layer on top of layer, then sprinkle parmesan over the top. Leave it in the oven for 15-20 minutes until it is hot inside and the cheese layer has meltened and browned a little. Serve hot, with your bottle of ketchup on the table.

macaroni met kaas


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