This recipe for Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Sausage and Peas is an easy, kid-friendly dinner idea for a busy night and the leftovers work well for lunch!
Thanks to the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network and PastaFits for sponsoring this post.
Story time. When I was in high school, my parents went to dinner pretty much every Friday night. Although there were times my sister and I accompanied them, more often than not I chose to stay home. I was in high school. Dinner with your parents was so not cool, right?
Anyways, since I was perfectly capable of navigating the kitchen at that age, feeding myself dinner became my responsibility. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I ate the same thing for dinner pretty much every Friday night for 4 years.
Any guesses what it was?
I’ll tell you:
Plain pasta with butter and salt.
I kid you not.
I, the now Registered Dietitian, ate buttered noodles for dinner once a week while growing up. And I loved it.
It’s no secret that I love pasta. It cooks quickly, can be used in a wide variety of recipes and is quite affordable. And while lately it may seem like everyone you know is shunning carbs, I’m here to tell you that pasta can most certainly be eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Key word is balanced. I would not recommend taking after my high school self and choosing a huge bowl of plain, buttered noodles with salt for dinner.
Here’s what I’d recommend instead:
- Choose whole wheat pasta to help get your daily servings of whole grains.
- Be aware of portion size. A serving of cooked pasta is about the size of your fist and typically has 7g of protein and 200 calories per serving.
- Add veggies and protein to bulk it up. By doing this, you can enjoy a nutrient-rich dish that’s healthy, filling and full of flavor!
So that brings us to this mac and cheese. When I felt like getting fancy on a Friday night, I’d make a box of mac and cheese instead of just plain noodles. It’s one of the ultimate comfort foods for me…and probably a lot of other people. Fast forward to today and now, at the wise old age of 30, I now typically put a little more effort into making my mac and cheese and try to focus on making it more of a complete, balanced meal.
I focus on three things:
- I always add veggies – frozen veggies are perfect for this.
- I usually throw in a protein source – chicken, pork, sausage, beans, etc.
- I make my own cheese sauce.
That may sound like a lot of extra work, but I promise it’s not. This recipe can all be made in one pan. I used pre-cooked chicken sausage but you could use any leftover meat you have on hand, or even tofu or beans. Added bonus- customize with your favorite veggies. I love adding peas to mine, but broccoli or a bag of mixed veggies would also be great!
Here’s how you make it:
Now don’t go freaking out because there’s pumpkin in there. It is optional, but I’d highly recommend adding at least 1/ 2 cup. I’d wager you won’t even know it’s in there. So start with 1/2 cup and then add more if you want. I use a full cup. I also make mine extra spicy!
Another note- you’re more than welcome to cook the pasta in one pan and start on step two in another pan while the noodles are cooking. This will save time. It will also dirty another pan. Your call.
For more delicious pasta recipes, visit PastaFits.org.