My niece, Laney, is turning two this weekend, and my sister has asked me for two things: 1.) to stop cussing around the baby and 2.) to make a batch of petit fours for the birthday party.

The first thing shouldn’t be a problem, since by the time I teach myself how to make the petit fours (French for “little pink slices of Hell”), there won’t be a four-letter word left in the universe. I just can’t get them out fast enough. The mailman probably thinks I’m speaking in tongues.

On the bright side, nothing makes you crave vegetables like being surrounded by pink powdered sugar. I couldn’t wait to dig into this Summer Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese, loaded with broccoli, squash, carrots, onion, red bell pepper and Roma tomatoes. The vegetables are cooked tender, but not mushy, so every bite gives you something a little different. Meals like this are the reason why so many of us garden. Or make friends with gardeners.

I should really start stalking someone who makes petit fours.

Summer Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe is very flexible, so feel free to use your favorite vegetables. The original recipe called for 16 ounces of ricotta cheese, so you could use that instead of the Cheddar and Monterey Jack.

Adapted from Tammy Algood’s “The Complete Southern Cookbook”

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 (8-ounce) package elbow macaroni
    Vegetables:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    Cheese Sauce:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper OR a splash of hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    Toppings:

  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dry seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain, cover, and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and set aside.
  3. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the oil and butter.
  4. When the butter is melted, add the broccoli, squash, carrots, onion, pepper and garlic. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in the macaroni. Set aside.
  6. To Make the Sauce: Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pour over the macaroni mixture, and add the Cheddar, Monterey Jack and ricotta. Gently stir to evenly coat. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  7. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  8. Top with the tomatoes.
  9. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over the top.
  10. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving warm.