Cravings: Roasted Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese

I know it's almost April and I am supposed to be posting lighter and healthier recipes.

But I was craving macaroni & cheese, so a girl's got to do, what a girl's got to do.

This is a warning:
This is so delicious, you will be tempted to eat most of the pan, as I almost did.

I made this a little healthier, by adding a head of cauliflower instead of a whole box of pasta, so it was like a cauliflower gratin w/ some pasta (and peas, tomatoes and ham!).

This is a great dish to serve for Easter, or if you have leftover baked ham from Easter!
You can certainly omit the ham to make this vegetarian, but the cooked country ham takes this dish to new heights.

All you really need is an arugula salad to go w/ this one, it can stand on its own.

This is also my yearly pasta primavera contribution, so we can kill 2 birds with one stone.

Amazing Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese:

1/2 lb. of pennette or medium shells (8 oz., or half the box)
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into florets
1 cup of defrosted frozen peas
3/4 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 cup of leftover cooked country ham, (optional)
1 cup of homemade breadcrumbs (from a brioche roll from Trader Joe's)
salt & pepper

Cheese Sauce:

2 cups of grated cheese (I used Wisconsin cheddar & Monterey Jack)
1 cup of whole milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 tbsp butter

Make the breadcrumbs:
I pulse one brioche roll from Trader Joe's in a food processor. You can also just use your hands to make the crumbs.
Add the crumbs to a small skillet with some olive oil and toast for about 5 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and crispy.
Set aside.
You can make the crumbs up to a week in advance and keep in a sealed container in the cupboard (do not refrigerate, or they will lose their crispness).

Cook the cauliflower:
You can boil your cauliflower for 5 minutes, but I like to roast mine, for a darker look and nuttier taste.

Roast florets on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil and kosher salt at 400F for 20 minutes or so, turning once halfway thru the cooking time.
Place roasted cauliflower in a large bowl.

Add the defrosted peas, leftover cooked ham and tomatoes to the cauliflower in the bowl and mix to incorporate.
Season with salt & pepper.

While the cauliflower is roasting, boil your pasta as per directions.
Drain and add the cooked pasta to the bowl with the cauliflower, ham and vegetables. Mix together.

Make the cheese sauce:
In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cheese w/ the butter, mustard, milk and spices and cook on low until all the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Mix some of the cheese sauce in the bowl with pasta and cauliflower just to coat.

Spray a 7" x 10" baking dish w/ cooking spray.

Pour out the contents of the bowl into the prepared baking dish and pour the rest of the cheese sauce over the casserole.

Are you getting excited yet?

Here's the best part.

Sprinkle the top w/ the brioche crumbs and bake for 20 minutes in a 375F oven until cheese is bubbling.

If you can hold off, let rest 10 minutes before serving!

Ah, craving satisfied.

Beware, you will want to eat this out of the pan.

You have been warned. :)


Ciao Chow Linda said…
Yes, yes, I'm getting excited (what's wrong with me?) and I've already got the leftover ham in the freezer. Now for the cauliflower and cheese. Bring on more winter if this is on the menu.
Oh this would be gone in 2 seconds over here! All the ingredients got me excited but then you said brioche breadcrumbs and really put it over the top! YUM!
Debby in Tacoma said…
Fantastic for Easter brunch with a nice ham and so colorful. It's on the menu for Easter.
Anonymous said…
This looks fabulous, but just have a question. Do you not use flour to make your cheese sauce? I have always made a roux so this is something new for me. Is the sauce meant to be very thin then?
Eileen said…
This may have to be dinner tonight.
Stacey Snacks said…

I did not use flour in this recipe.

The cheese makes it a thick enough consistency.
You can use flour if you like, but the richness of the cauliflower and pasta with cheese make it just fine (not thin at all).

Tonight! This was mighty fine. Lots of leftovers too! didn't have cherry tomatoes and used sun dried. Lovely. and of course i didn't have brioche crumbs!