I typically don’t try to make mac and cheese healthy because, really, what’s the point? Mac and cheese is one of those recipes I fully believe was never intended to be healthy. Like pizza. Or cake.
But I understand that in the name of health, some people want to eat lower fat or more fiber or higher protein content. And some people might have picky eaters on their hands and may need to sneak veggies into food for the unsuspecting. Adding cauliflower is a great way to make mac and cheese more healthy, hide vegetables or both.
Also there were both mushrooms and cauliflower in the fridge that were needing to be used and I wanted to come up with a dish I could make to use them both. Can you believe there are not that many mushroom + cauliflower recipes floating around the internet? Most of the ones I came across were keto-specific or involved cauliflower rice and mushrooms. So I kind of made this recipe up by drawing inspiration from two different blog posts:
Lauren's Latest Cauliflower Cheese Sauce for Skinny Mac 'n Cheese Cooking on the Ranch Creamy Swiss and Mushroom Mac and Cheese.
You must season this dish appropriately or you’ll end up needing to add salt at the end. I had to even though I thought I had seasoned it appropriately. It’s not matter. Salt brings out the flavor of food and it for this dish.
- 16 oz pasta noodles, uncooked
- 12 oz cauliflower florets (Trader Joe’s sells florets in a package)
- 1 c. chicken broth, milk or cream
- 10 to 12 ounce block of Gruyère cheese, shredded
- 12 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
- Olive oil or butter
- Reserved pasta water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the mushrooms: In a fry pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms, saute until the moisture evaporates and mushrooms are just starting to brown, add salt toward the end of the browning process. Remove from heat and set aside.
- While mushrooms are cooking, cut cauliflower up into large florets and place into shallow dish. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, cut slit in the top and microwave 3 to 5 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. This will depend on how well your microwave works.
- While the cauliflower and mushrooms are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Pour in pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside reserving the pasta water.
- Pour cauliflower and stock or milk into high powdered blender and puree completely until smooth. The mixture will be thick.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour puree, noodles, and cheese into an oven safe pot, dutch oven or casserole dish, reserving a bit of cheese to sprinkle on the top of the dish prior to baking. Mix ingredients to combine. Add enough pasta water to get to your desired consistency. This should help melt the cheese but if it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. The pasta water will not thin the sauce out. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to your liking.
- Before baking, sprinkle the top with mushrooms and additional Gruyère. (Alternatively you can mix the mushrooms in – if you have picky eaters it may be best to leave them on the top.) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through and cheese on top is melted.
This dish is quite good considering the health content is boosted by pureed cauliflower. I could have used whole wheat noodles to boost the health content even more but in my opinion whole wheat noodles don’t come in very fun shapes and I wanted a fun shape. I asked my dad and Sis if you can taste the cauliflower in the dish. Sis said “no” and my dad said “not really.” I don’t think it would be obvious to anyone who didn’t know that cauliflower is involved.