When you crave creamy cheesy comfort food this Lighter Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese topped with peas and crispy pancetta is the answer!
Let's face it, as much as we'd like to eat healthy all the time, sometimes we just crave warm, cheesy comfort food, especially in the form of pasta! At least I know I do! This lightened up version of mac & cheese is designed to satisfy that craving without completely blowing your healthy eating goals!
Mac & cheese has always been one of my favorites, and I do still indulge in the "fully loaded" version from time to time. As someone who loves food, and spends a lot of my time cooking and testing new recipes, it can be hard to stick to eating healthy all the time, do you know what I mean?! This lightened up version of mac & cheese still have all the creamy texture and amazing taste that you expect and as an added bonus this skinnier version has the added benefit that it has an entire serving of veggies built in! WIN!!
I was hoping to make this a one-pot recipe so it would be super easy as a weeknight meal but you really need to cook the pancetta separately, so I'll call it almost one pot as everything gets mixed up in the same pot you use for the cooking the pasta making clean-up relatively quick!
One of the best things about mac and cheese is all that creamy cheese, so when trying to lighten it up the dilemma is how do you get that rich creamy texture without all that full-fat cheese. My solution here is a combination of greek yogurt and lower fat goat cheese, which melts well. Also adding some of the pasta water makes the everything come together and give you that nice creamy texture.
Once you've cooked up the pancetta you just need to boil the pasta, quickly steam the peas and then toss everything back in with the warm pasta to give you creamy goodness.
One of my goals for this year is to bring you more recipes that you can eat anytime while sticking with your healthier eating plans and loving what you're eating so if there is something you'd like to see on the blog leave me a note in the comments.
additional notes from the kitchen
- If you want to do some of the prep for this recipe ahead of time, you can make the pancetta at the beginning of the week and keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. It doesn't stay quite a crispy but it will still have a good crunch and still tastes fabulous!
- To get the cheese to melt well, you really want to pan from the pasta to be hot, so if you are working on weekly meal prep and have another pasta dish planned you can throw some extra pasta in the pot and refrigerate that for later in the week. This dish does reheat quite well so sometimes I make a double batch so I have leftovers for lunch during the week.
- Don't forget to reserve some of the pasta water when you are draining the pasta. It's a key ingredient to achieving that creamy texture. This is a good habit to get into any time you are making pasta. Adding a little pasta water when you toss the sauce in can create a great texture for your dish.
This easy mac & cheese recipe is something you'll want to make over and over again, making it one of your favorite go-to weeknight meals!
things you may want for this recipe
Cuisinart 6-Quart Pasta Pot with Strainer – I used to have a larger version of this pot but recently switched to the 6-quart version. Unless you are always cooking for a really large group, this size is probably a good bet for most kitchens.
Lighter Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese with Peas and Pancetta
- 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 ¾ cups cavatappi or whole wheat fusilli pasta
- 3 ounces soft goat cheese
- ⅓ cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 ounces white cheddar, grated
- Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and cook for 7-9 minutes, until pancetta is crisp. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Place the peas in a small microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- While the pancetta is cooking bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 6-7 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Pour the pasta back into the pot and place back on the stove, which should still be warm. Add the cheeses, yogurt and peas. Stir to combine. Add the pasta water and continue stirring until the cheeses melt and a creamy sauce forms.
- Divide pasta between 2 or 3 bowls, top with pancetta and serve immediately.
Analida @ ethnicspoon.com says
I love this recipe and I can't wait to try it! I make my own goat cheese and a 1/2 gallon of goat milk makes about 8 to 10 ounces of cheese so I am alway looking for a way to use it up. Thanks for sharing! If you want to make goat cheese it is fairly simple: https://ethnicspoon.com/how-to-make-goat-cheese-recipe-chevre/
Veena Azmanov says
This sounds so light, refreshing, healthy and nutritious.! Looks so pretty too. I love when recipes are so easy to make. Saving for later.
Amy Nash says
This pasta sounds so wonderful, especially with that crispy pancetta! That, with the goat cheese, sounds totally yum! And how awesome to be able to indulge without going overboard.
Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen says
Cavatappi is one of my absolute favorite types of pasta! The shape is perfect for dishes like this. And I'm seriously swooning over the pancetta and pea combo in here. You totally nailed it!
Karyl | Karyl's Kulinary Krusade says
I love your tips for lightening up mac and cheese! I don't ever do that though 🙂 I figure if I'm gonna make mac and cheese, I'm going full force. But I do love goat cheese, so I'm gonna have to give this a try
This recipe sounds amazing! I love the reminder about reserving the pasta water for creaminess. Pancetta is one of my favorite things to add to mac and cheese the adding the peas is brilliant.
Anne Murphy says
Goat cheese and yogurt sounds like a great combination! We used to live near a restaurant that specialized in macaroni and cheese, and while there's nothing like the classic creamy cheddar, we enjoyed trying some of the other variations. Now that I can't get theirs, nice to have other ideas to try!
I love peas and pancetta in creamy pasta sauces! This lightened up version with goat cheese and greek yogurt sounds phenomenal! What a great dish to indulge in a healthier way.
Marissa Zurfluh says
Now that is an interesting idea. I never though of yogurt in mac n cheese.
Using greek yogurt in mac and cheese is such a good idea! I need to make this!
What a great twist to a classic recipe! Love the idea!
Love the combination of ingredients in this dish. The pancetta is a wonderful addition as is the goat cheese. Yummy!