Recipe courtesy of Turner Broadcasting System

Asparagus and Swiss Macaroni and Cheese

This mac and cheese with whole-grain pasta, Swiss cheese and asparagus is a comfort food that will literally make you feel better. Studies have shown that the folic acid found in asparagus is a natural mood booster, as is the Vitamin D in Swiss cheese and milk. Whole-grain pastas increase your body's release of serotonin, the ultimate happy hormone.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Prep: 15 min
  • Inactive: 10 min
  • Cook: 45 min
  • Yield: 10 servings
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Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

Kosher salt

1 pound whole wheat penne

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups vitamin D fortified 1-percent milk

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

2 bunches raw asparagus, bottom trimmed 2-inches and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)

10 slices Swiss cheese

1 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Move a rack to the middle of the oven. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot set over high heat bring 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons kosher salt to a boil. Add the penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions, stirring occasionally. The pasta will be slightly underdone. Use a measuring cup or ladle to remove 1/3 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta into a colander. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside. 
  3. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, whisking constantly. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to thicken like heavy cream and then becomes almost pudding-like, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shredded cheese and whisk until smooth, the sauce will be very thick. Add the nutmeg and season with some salt and pepper. 
  4. Combine the asparagus, pasta, reserved 1/3 cup pasta water and cheese sauce and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with a layer of the cheese slices. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle the panko over the cheese slices, and top with the butter cubes. Bake until the top is golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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