I’m kind of a mac and cheese junkie. I’m sure that comes as no surprise, since this is probably the fifth variation of the classic dish I’ve posted here. I do like to come up with new twists, though, and if the twist is healthy, so much the better!
I came across this Jamie Oliver recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese a while back, and it has become a staple in our weeknight rotation, especially when we have lots of cauliflower to use. It has a great, sharp flavor and a creamy sauce, and the cauliflower actually adds a lot to it. I thought it sounded kind of weird at first, but I’m a convert.
I used romanesco for this particular batch, but you can use any kind of cauliflower, or you can even modify the recipe to use other veggies.
half a head of cauliflower*
8 oz. cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping
4 oz. parmesan cheese
small bunch of Italian parsley**
1 lb. dried macaroni
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and discard. Slice the end off the cauliflower stalk and cut the head into small florets. Halve the thick stalk lengthways, then slice thinly. Grate the cheddar and parmesan into a large heat-proof bowl. Finely chop the parsley stalks and leaves.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cauliflower and cook according to the macaroni package instructions. Drain, reserving the cooking water,*** and transfer to a large bowl.
Return the water to a boil (tip some out if you need to for the bowl to fit) and place the bowl of cheese over the saucepan. Add the crème fraîche or sour cream and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Carefully stir every so often until the cheese is smooth and melted. If the water boils up beneath the bowl, just turn the heat down slightly. Add all the chopped parsley to the melted cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Carefully remove the bowl of cheese using and oven mitt and set aside. Drain pan, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan, pour in the melted cheese, and stir.
Preheat the broiler. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to the macaroni, stir in, then transfer to a baking dish. Top with a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until golden and bubbling.
* Or a small-ish head of cauliflower, or just make a double batch with a whole head.
** I just skip this if I don’t have it on hand, but it does add iron!
*** The easiest way to do this is to use a pasta pot with an insert you can pull out, but you can also drain into a colander set over a large bowl and then dump the water back into the pot.