When I told my dad what I was making for dinner tonight he hinted that I’m on a cauliflower kick. I was for a while. I became obsessed with eating roasted cauliflower for a while when I figured out I love it roasted with turmeric. I’m over that obsession. Unfortunately I bought several heads of cauliflower before my obsession ended. And apparently I’m not the only one on love with the cruciferous veggie recently. A few weeks back (mid cauliflower obsession) the checkout girl at Trader Joe’s told me cauliflower is the new kale. (She would know, right?)
To use up the last of my aging cauliflower, I of course turned to Pinterest for inspiration. After browsing many pictures and recipes, in the end, I went with a household name: Mark Bittman. Never had a bad Bittman recipe. My recipe is adapted from the one he featured in The New York Times.
- 2 T. olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish
- 2 ½ c. chicken soup or stock or water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces
- elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta (preferably whole grain, wheat or some other pumped up noodle)
- 1 to 2 c. grated cheese (your favorite flavor or a combination of favorites)
- ½ to 1 c. milk or half-and-half
- 1 tsp. ground mustard, or to taste
- ⅛ tsp. nutmeg, or to taste
- salt and pepper
- ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ c. grated cheese (use the same cheese from earlier)
- ½ c. or more bread crumbs, optional
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it – use plenty of salt. Put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and let stand.
- Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the water from the cauliflower and transfer it to a blender or food processor.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower with the stock, broth or water, 2 tablespoons oil, cheese, milk or half-and-half, mustard, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it out with additional stock or milk. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish.
- Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and remaining other cheese. Bake until the pasta is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
I never have good luck with mac and cheese recipes that call for you to undercook the noodles (and the subsequent long time in the oven, afterward). I find that my noodles become engorged from the sauce and that the noodles actually dry up this way. No matter how much sauce I add to the noodles, this always happens when I undercook the noodles before putting in the oven to bake.
I’m not going to claim that this dish is healthy. Healthier than normal mac and cheese? Yes. Healthy, no. I had to add a crap ton of cheese to the cauliflower puree to get it tasting of cheese. That being said, this dish is a good way to sneak in cauliflower. Had I not known it was in there, I doubt I would have detected it. The litmus test I have for a new mac and cheese dish (or any recipe, really), is one I call the fork test. If I can’t put my fork down, the recipe is a success. Folks I couldn’t put my fork down after digging into this dish.