Carrot Mac & Cheese

Carrot Mac & Cheese
Every time I pickup my son at daycare his teachers tell me that he is a very good eater. What does that even mean? Is it variety? Quantity?

I guess there aren’t too many things to measure a 2-year-old by, so it’s how much he’s eating. And probably whether he’s being fussy or not. 

The teachers marvel how our slim guy can plow through pasta like a champ. Well, he’s a growing boy!

As a first-time mom, I have learned that this is high praise for a toddler, but at home his dining style is a different story.

Kids learn at a very young age that exhausted parents are total pushovers. Of course I love my child, but he’s a master at manipulation. 

I will never forget cooking pasta with tomato sauce from scratch, proudly presenting it to him, and being met with hysterical tears.

How could my food make him cry!? I was trying to feed him a kid-friendly carb.

The most veggies I ate growing up were raw carrot sticks. I managed to turn out fine. Now I can’t get enough vegetables. 

It takes some effort, but I am doing my best not to get frustrated with his selective picky eating.

I will continue with nutritious homemade meals even though there’s a good he will push his plate to the side or start crying. 

The other week I made carrot mac & cheese, a lighter version of a comfort food classic.

I simmer sliced carrots in water to get them soft enough to puree. That subtly sweet carrot purée allowed me to reduce the usual amount of cheese.

Then best part of this lightened mac & cheese was that even I enjoyed it. I tend to be wary of certain kid foods since they aren’t they aren’t the healthiest. 

When I served my son a plate of carrot mac & cheese, I held my breath. Much to my relief, he dug right in.

I consider it a big victory since I snuck in a vegetable.



Carrot Mac & Cheese

Carrot Mac & Cheese
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x


3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup water
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces shredded sharp cheddar (11/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fine breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon minced chives


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, add the carrots, 1/2 teaspoon salt and water. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a blender or food processor and puree.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the penne until al dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the carrot puree and cooking water. Over medium heat, cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the remaining salt and about three-fourths of the cheese until melted. Transfer to a square baking dish and top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is lightly browned. Let the mac & cheese stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chives.


Adapted from Food & Wine April 2009

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