Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

I think you are gonna love this!  There is an entire head of cauliflower hiding in this Mac & Cheese.  When cooked very soft, the cauliflower makes a superb sauce which is has a beautiful creamy texture and very neutral in taste (in other words, does not taste like cauliflower).  This recipe is from Mark Bittman's 'The Food Matters Cookbook'.  If you don't have a food processor or blender, a potato masher can be used, the sauce will be a little chunkier, but it will still be very good.

You can use ordinary breadcrumbs for the topping (or leave it off entirely), but Panko crumbs are drier then other breadcrumbs and so make a crisper topping.  Just take a look at the beautifully brown, crispy bits in the photo above.

I can't remember the last time I ate Mac & Cheese.  And, I will admit to being a bit apprehensive about this.  While the cauliflower was cooking, there was an odor in the house, kind of like, well, over-cooked cauliflower.  Fortunately, there was only the lovely smell of warm cheese in the finished Mac & Cheese. 

I made this for Mother's Day because David's 2 year ago grandson, Taye was part of the party and I wanted to be sure there was something he would like.  Taye wasn't too interested in eating much of anything, but all of us adults loved it.  Taye did eat some ice cream later...

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for the baking pan
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces
1 lb ziti, elbow, or other cut pasta (whole wheat, rice, kamut, etc)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
a few grating of fresh nutmeg
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush a 9x13" baking pan (or equivalent) with olive oil. 

Cook the cauliflower in a large pot of salted boiling water until very tender (about 25 minutes).  Remove the cauliflower from the water to a food processor (or blender).  Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until half way to al dente.  Drain pasta and place in a very large bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, process the cauliflower with 3/4 cup of the stock, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cheddar, mustard, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper until very smooth.  If using a blender, you may need to work this in a few batches.  If the sauce needs to be thinned out, add a bit more stock.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix.  Plunk the mixture into the prepared pan. 

Sprinkle the top with the shredded Parmesan.  Toss the Panko breadcrumbs with the melted butter and spread over top of the Parmesan.

Bake the pasta until casserole is bubbly and crumbs turn brown, 30 minutes or so.  (We baked this in a ceramic baking dish and the sides were deliciously crisp - yum, that was the best part)

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm... made with rice pasta this might fly at the Weber house!