Hidden Zucchini Mac and Cheese with Garlic Brown Butter Breadcrumbs is comfort food at its best. It’s filled with an added veggie boost of grated zucchini, which disappears into the silkiest 3-cheese sauce. We’ve got Cheddar, fontina, and Gouda, and to top it all off, the mac and cheese gets topped with toasty garlic brown butter breadcrumbs! It’s insanely delicious, and it’s my version of adult mac and cheese! And it’s perfect for kids if you’re trying to be sneaky with veggies!
There’s not much on this earth better than a gooey, cheesy, warm bowl of homemade mac and cheese (with THREE cheeses), and, the most insanely delicious crunch – garlic brown butter breadcrumbs. I don’t even know why I’d ever want to eat anything else.
This beauty of a comfort food recipe comes from my brand new cookbook, Eat More Plants!
You guys. I can’t even begin to articulate how insanely grateful, humbled, happy, excited, and appreciative I am of the support and response I’ve received from the launch of my book. I had no idea that you guys would be as excited as I am, and I’m just over the moon that you love the recipes and the book so much. It makes my entire life.
So! I wanted to share a recipe from my book, that celebrated late summer produce (in the form of zucchini!), but also helped us transition into fall (hello, comfort food).
And here we are, with the best, sneaky zucchini mac EVER.
Yep, you see those delicate little shreds of zucchini? You can’t even detect them in this mac and cheese, which is amazing if you’re craving pasta and cheese but should proooobably eat some vegetables too? This is for you. Or, if your children aren’t a huge fan of veggies, you can totally sneak this one right by them.
They won’t know! I promise promise.
And we’re not talking a little bit of zucchini. There are two whole grated zucchinis tucked into this deliciousness, and you’d never ever know. It all starts by grating the zucchini, and then sautéing it in a little garlic and butter to soften it all up so it effortlessly disappears into the three-cheese sauce.
In this case, I went with sharp cheddar, fontina, and gouda. It’s pretty much the trifecta that I always use in my homemade mac, unless we’re talking about this lobster mac which is pretty darn special too.
I find that if you add a variety of cheeses to homemade mac and cheese, the better it is. Crazy concept, right? But actually, I love using cheddar for its sharpness, fontina for it’s silky melty-ness, and gouda for its creamy nuttiness and slight tang!
But really, how can you go wrong?
The key to getting the silkiest cheese sauce that doesn’t separate, is to add the cheese in small handfuls at a time, stirring until it’s completely melted before adding the next handful. Because nobody wants a grainy cheese sauce! It basically ensures that the cheese melts evenly, instead of adding it all at once, bringing down the temperature of the milk, and just creating a grainy, stringy mess. Trust me! I know it’s haaard to be patient when you’re staring at this.
I like to use elbow noodles for this recipe because it’s a classic choice for mac and cheese, but cavatappi or any short cut pasta you enjoy will work great. Heck, you could even try chickpea or lentil pasta to raise the plant/veggie factor! But nothing comes close to the real deal stuff, in my opinion!
Can you even with that creaminess?!
Aside from the zucchini, I also dressed up this cheese sauce a little bit with dijon mustard (always a must in my cheese sauces!), nutmeg (same goes for nutmeg!), smoked paprika (just adds a little something!), and a dash of cayenne. These little additions just make the cheese sauce that much more lovely and interesting.
And! I haven’t even made it to the best part! The garlic brown butter breadcrumbs. There’s nothing like a little buttery, garlicky, textural crunch when you take a creamy bite of the mac and cheese.
It’s pure heaven!
And the other best part that I forgot to mention, is that half of the breadcrumbs get stirred INTO the mac and cheese (so that you get a little garlicky brown butter crunch in every bite), and the rest of it gets sprinkled on top! For extra crunchy crunch.
Are you sick of me describing this yet? I kind of love it so much, and I can’t help it.
Don’t answer that.
It’s summer love in the form of late-season zucchini snuggled into mac and cheese. What could be better?
You can find this recipe below (and in my book!) and 74 more flavorful, satisfying, addictive dishes in my cookbook, Eat More Plants! Your support means the absolute world to me.
Hidden Zucchini Mac and Cheese with Garlic Brown Butter Breadcrumbs
Hidden Zucchini Mac and Cheese with Garlic Brown Butter Breadcrumbs is comfort food at its best. It's filled with an added veggie boost of grated zucchini, which disappears into the silkiest 3-cheese sauce. We've got Cheddar, fontina, and Gouda, and to top it all off, the mac and cheese gets topped with toasty garlic brown butter breadcrumbs! It's insanely delicious, and it's my version of adult mac and cheese! And it's perfect for kids if you're trying to be sneaky with veggies!
For the mac and cheese
- 2 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 pound elbow pasta, or short-cut pasta of your choice
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- black pepper, as needed
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 ounces freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 6 ounces freshly grated fontina cheese
- 4 ounces freshly grated Gouda cheese
For the garlic brown butter breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the mac and cheese, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of the salt. Once boiling, add the elbow pasta and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it is fragrant. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with the black pepper.
Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, and increase the heat to high. Continue to whisk until the milk comes to a simmer and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, nutmeg, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper and whisk to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gradually add the Cheddar, fontina, and Gouda cheeses, stirring well after each addition, until the cheeses have melted completely. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and season with black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce sit while you make the garlic brown butter breadcrumbs.
To make the garlic brown butter breadcrumbs, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and whisk constantly until the butter is brown and becomes nutty and fragrant, watching it carefully to prevent burning.
Once the butter is brown, add the panko breadcrumbs and salt and stir to combine, letting the breadcrumbs toast for about 1 minute.
Add the pasta to the warm cheese sauce and stir to combine. Add half of the breadcrumbs into the mac and cheese and stir to combine. Serve immediately with the reamaining breadcrumbs on top.
*this recipe comes from my cookbook, Eat More Plants!
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