Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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I love to change-up every recipe I make depending the day or the ingredients that I have on hand.  This recipe easily converts to a Gluten-free version by substituting with GF pasta and flour.  When my kids were small I tried many ways to hide vegetables in meals that they loved.  Although, I always encouraged them to eat what was placed in front of them, I also understood that trying new things is not always easy for adults, and children are no exception.  I love this Mac and cheese recipe and I have adjusted my original recipe to accommodate steamed or blanched cauliflower.  Although I now make it with large chunks of cauliflower, when my children were small I chopped the cauliflower into very small pieces once boiled or steamed.  Of course, you could omit the cauliflower all together if you want. They never did realize that I added cauliflower, broccoli didn’t fly so well  under the radar 😉

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (8 oz) dry Macaroni or Pasta noodles (Gluten free noodles can be substituted boiling time will vary)
  • 1 -1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 Tbsp of butter
  • 3 Tbsp of all-purpose flour (for gluten-free use white or brown rice flour)
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of whole seed mustard
  • 1/2 of a head of Cauliflower cut into bite size pieces (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded smoked applewood cheddar*
  • 2 -1/4 cups of shredded mozzarella* (3/4 cup set aside for the final topping)
  • Season with salt, fresh pepper,  * sometimes I add pinch fresh grated nutmeg to taste 

*For the 3 cups of cheese I vary the types of cheese depending on what I have in the refrigerator.  Sharp, medium or mild Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Gruyère or pre blended and shredded mixed cheeses.  I have also replaced 1/2 cup of a soft cheese for 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  I urge you to try many variations of this recipe.  Stronger cheeses like blue cheese, I would recommend to add sparingly and then taste and add more until the desired taste is reached.  Do resist the urge to add more cheese than the recipe calls for in the creamed part,  if you want more cheese, sprinkle through out or add to the top layer.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°  Bake for 20-25 minutes

  1. Bring a pot 2/3 full of water to a boil.  Add 1 1/2 tsp salt
  2. Cook 8 oz of pasta in a pot of boiling water as per the instructions or until al dente (still firm to the bite but not hard)
  3. Drain the pasta and set aside
  4. Shred the cheeses toss together in using more than one kind.  Set aside 3/4 cup for the final topping
  5. Cut up half of a cauliflower into small florets
  6. Blanche for 5 minutes in a pot of boiling water or steam for 4-5 minutes
  7. In a pot or deep saute pan add 3 tbsp of butter, melt over medium heat
  8. Add the flour and whisk into the butter.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes whisking constantly.  Do not let burn
  9. Add the mustard and the garlic, whisk in until combined
  10. Add chicken stock and milk, whisk until thickened
  11. Stir in the cheese until melted and combined
  12. Season the sauce with Salt, and pepper.
  13. Add pasta and cauliflower still in gently
  14. Pour into a 2 quart baking dish or pan or your choice.
  15. Top with the 3/4 of reserved cheese.
  16. Place in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.

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