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Easy mac-n-cheese you won’t feel bad about serving

AP Photo NYLS108, NYLS107

By J.M. HIRSCH

AP Food Editor

A great mac and cheese can be easy. And healthy.

The secret? Whole-wheat pasta shells and a can of squash or pumpkin puree. The latter ingredient may sound odd, but it really is an easy way to add vitamin-packed produce to a dish otherwise devoid of vegetables.

The creme fraiche (you could substitute sour cream, even low-fat sour cream) and Parmesan cheese lend wonderfully creamy and savory flavors that make the pumpkin seem like a natural for the sauce.

A bit of crisped prosciutto also adds tons of flavor. It’s a smart choice over bacon for a healthier dish.

And if you fear whole-grain pastas, get over it. The varieties on the market today are vastly better than even just five years ago. And the sauce in this recipe is robust enough to mask any wheatiness.

This dish still can’t claim to be health food, but it is jammed with whole grains, fiber and produce.

HEALTHIER STOVETOP MAC AND CHEESE

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

12 ounces medium whole-wheat pasta shells

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 slices (about 2 ounces) prosciutto, finely chopped

15-ounce can pumpkin or squash puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

4 ounces creme fraiche

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium, heat the olive oil. Add the prosciutto and cook until just crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, creme fraiche, hot sauce, cumin and Parmesan. Cook, stirring often, until hot.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 536 calories; 177 calories from fat; 20 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 41 mg cholesterol; 74 g carbohydrate; 22 g protein; 10 g fiber; 698 mg sodium.

EDITOR’S NOTE: J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at jhirsch(at)ap.org.