I remember being a little girl on a family holiday to Florida and noticing a thing called “mac and cheese” on the menu in a lot of places we went to eat. I didn’t much like the look of it, being a fussy eater of a child but also the lurid day-glow yellow runny sauce and overcooked pasta really didn’t endear itself to me.
Oh how many years did I go on to deprive myself of one of the most delicious comfort foods out there after that?!
Done right, it is one of the most wonderful side dishes out there but usually, it all so fatty that it’s a wonder waiters don’t bring out a defib with your plate of saturated fat and salt. Fear not, foodie friends, I have worked out a recipe which gives all of that glorious goo but it no longer needs to come with a health warning.
Here comes my totally Syn Free Mushroom & Leek Mac & Cheese!
One of the major philosophies of Slimming World is to ensure that you have at least a third of your plate for every meal that you can, full of fruits and/or vegetables. They are nutritionally dense and low calorie so replacing some of your starchy carbs with these will mean you are taking in a lot less calories, and you should therefore lose weight.
A lot of the time, my plates are more like 2/3 fruit or veg these days but you know what? I can’t be that righteous every single day and sometimes, I could gleefully fling my salad out the window. On those days, a plate of home cooked ham and mac & cheese is the only thing which will satisfy.
And I am more than happy with that.
To ease my guilty conscience, I add mushrooms, leeks and spinach. You could reduce the pasta quantity and up the veg amounts in the recipe below if you want to, and some times even I do that.
The cheese sauce is a bit of a miracle. I make full use of the soon-to-be-official second HEA (Healthy Extra A choice aka cheese!) we are allowed on SW and revel in all that glorious goo. I have a few tips for you to make your mac & cheese the best one yet.
First up, after cooking your pasta, reserve some of the starchy cooking water and later stir it into the sauce and pasta. You don’t want it swimming in water but the pasta will suck up a lot of moisture as it finishes cooking in the oven so trust me and stir in that starch!
Second, I have tried a whole load of quarks (low fat skimmed milk cheese) and have to say, the Arla brand seems to the most stable when heated and resists splitting for the longest time of all the brands. You still have to go slow and add it off the heat but if you can find it, I would use that one.
Finally, a little mustard powder goes a long way to seasoning the mac & cheese and it really helps bring out the cheesy flavour so don’t skip that ingredient! Just be such to use powdered mustard as the ready made ones all carry a Syn flavour (boo hiss!).
- 350 g dried macaroni or other similar pasta shapes
- 2 leeks, washed well and sliced finely
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- Large handful of chopped spinach
- Grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp dried mustard powder
- 110g McLelland Seriously Strong Lighter Spreadable Cheese (2 x HEAs)
- 30g Parmesan, finely grated (1 x HEA)
- 40g ready grated mozzarella (1 X HEB)
- 250g quark (Arla brand for preference)
- One cal oil spray light Fry Light
- Start by cooking your pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the packet says. You want it to have some bite still. Reserve 100ml of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C and spray an oven dish with one cal oil spray like Fry Light. My dish is about 8 inches in diameter and round but use whatever you have.
- In a large saucepan cook the leeks with some one cal oil spray until soft, then add the mushrooms and do the same. Stir in the spinach and grate over the nutmeg (about 20 scratches worth will do) and sprinkle in the mustard powder. Stir well.
- Turn off the heat under the saucepan and stir in the spreadable cheese until it melts. Follow with half of the Parmesan.
- Take the pan completely off the heat and slowly stir in the quark a little at a time. I find the Arla brand best as it doesn't split as easily as others but you still need to do this gradually.
- Stir in the almost fully cooked pasta and stir very well. Dribble in half of the pasta water and if it still looks a little dry, add the rest. Tip into your prepared oven dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
- Bake the mac & cheese until it is golden brown on top - about 20 minutes should do it.
- With regard to the spreadable cheese, there are a lot of fifferent ones to chose from in the supermarkets so you can substitute this with whichever you are able to get *and* has a HEA choice in official Slimming World resources.
- Remember that you are allowed less ready grated mozzarella than you would be using a fresh ball but it is much easier to melt and use that I don't mind a few grams less!
- Syn values given are correct at time of writing but may not always be accurate.
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- We aren’t trained by Slimming World nor authorised to give Slimming World advice. Any advice given here should not replace the advice of your Slimming World consultant.
- Always check with Slimming World for the most up to date Syn values using their official resources such as; the Syns calculator, Syns Online on LifelineOnline or by calling the Syns Hotline on (0906) 851 8518.
- Although evernookandcranny.net attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Under no circumstances will everynookandcranny.net be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information.
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