I love mac and cheese. My mom makes the best baked mac and cheese (loaded with fatty goodness) but this has all sorts of gooey wonderfulness without quite so much guilt..and hidden veggies. I think this would be great for kids, you don’t even realize there is cauliflower in with the pasta. I served it as a side dish with chicken but it would make a great vegetarian entree. This is adapted from a Vanilla and Bean blog post. You could also add some caramelized onions.
- 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed
- Olive oil for drizzling over cauliflower
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
- 2 Cups Grated low fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 8 oz Pasta Shells
- 2 Cups skim or 2% Milk
- 2 Tbs Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tbs All Purpose Flour
- 1 C Panko Flake Bread Crumbs
- Black Pepper to Taste
- 1 tsp salt
- Smoked Paprika to taste
- Fresh Thyme for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425F, with rack positioned in the center of the oven. Line a sheet pan with foil.
2. Arrange the trimmed and cut cauliflower on the sheet distributed in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil. Once the oven is preheated, put the sheet pan in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta shells. Add the pasta once the water is boiling and boil until tender (or as indicated package directions). Drain pasta and rinse. Set aside.
4. Check on the cauliflower after 15 minutes. Give the pan a shake and gently, using a spatula, redistribute the cauliflower again in one layer. Set the timer for another 5 minutes then check again. The cauliflower should be turning a nice golden color with crunchy bits . Cook for an additional 5 minutes if needed. Add 1/2 C Parmesan and 1/2 Cheddar and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese is throughly melted. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
5. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
6. Heat the milk in the microwave, about a minute, until hot. Set aside.
7. In a medium saucepan, add the remaining 2 Tbs butter. Melt and allow the butter to bubble. Turn the burner to low. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk constantly until a paste is formed. Now you’re ready to add the milk, a little at a time, while whisking the entire time. Continue to add a little more milk at a time while the sauce begins to thicken and become smooth. The goal is no lumps! Once all the milk is in the pot and your sauce is smooth, add the salt, pepper, and the remaining cheese. Stir until completely smooth. Remove the pot from the heat.
8. Stir in the cooked pasta, the cauliflower, and the little bits of crunchies on the pan. Transfer the mac and cheese to the baking dish and cover the mixture with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle paprika over the top, to taste. Bake for about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the mac and cheese is heated throughly.
9. Garnish with fresh thyme.