Mac and Cheese is my favorite food, period. Today, I thought I’d challenge myself–can I make a tasty mac and cheese that is healthier than normal? While I don’t have a calorie or fat calculator, I’ll go out on a limb and guestimate that per serving this recipe has 50% less fat, 50% fewer calories, and depending how much pasta you boil, could have 50% fewer carbs. Plus this recipe has probably more cauliflower than you’ve ever normally used in a recipe, and a quick google tells me that cauliflower has a lot of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Folate, among other things. Who knew. Lastly, full disclosure, I didn’t think I was going to use truffle oil on this recipe until I tasted it out of the oven. It was great, but missing that je ne sais quoi.
Before you start this recipe, a couple things to mention:
This recipe takes a bit of time, have fun with it!
I use an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, you could use a blender.
Cauliflower can be messy to chop, but follow the instructions below that explain how you can cut the florets apart from the “root” and you’ll prevent a cauli-confetti-explosion.
Use different cheese if you don’t have cheddar and parmesan at the ready. Bet it would be awesome with smoked gouda or gruyere.
Take 1 of the cauliflower heads and break it down into 1-inch florets. Then place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with the olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika. Roast at 450 degrees for 35 minutes, flipping the cauliflower once.
Then, in a medium/large sauce pan heat 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat; add the garlic and shallot. Add the roasted cauliflower to the sauce pan and pour over the chicken stock. Simmer over medium-low for 10-15 minutes. (At this time you can also start your pasta water and salt liberally.)
Once some of the broth has reduced, turn off the heat, and immersion blend into a cream. (If transferring to a blender, wait for mixture to cool more. If not familiar with using an immersion blender, also wait for it to cool so it doesn't splash and burn you. I often have to tilt the pot to allow the immersion blender to do its job.) Check the consistency, it should be like a nice soup or bisque. If too thick add more stock.
Finally, turn heat back on to low and add the grated cheddar and parmesan and stir to combine. Your cheese sauce is now ready.
Take your second cauliflower head and cut it down into mini florets, of similar size to the pasta shape you are using, .5-1cm in diameter. Add macaroni pasta to the boiling pasta water. (Elbow macaroni takes 7 minutes to get to al dente, and given it will cook more in the oven, aim for a bit under 7 minutes.) 3 minutes into the boil, add the mini florets, and finish boiling.
Strain the pasta and combine with your cauliflower/cheese mixture, adding final spices: nutmeg, paprika, and any salt/pepper to taste.
Finally pour into into greased baking dish and sprinkle bread crumb topping evenly across the top.
Bake uncovered for 25 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, then serve.
Bread crumb topping
Melt 1 tbsp of butter and combine breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Mix together.