Sometimes we just crave tons of butter, cheese, and carbs, because, well, it tastes good. Macaroni and cheese is one of the unhealthier foods around, but there's a reason it's at the top of our lists. Aren't we all sort of born with a desire for macaroni and cheese? I was skeptical but interested in this healthier variation on the classic from Mark Bittman, writing for Runner's World magazine.
The idea is this: pureed cauliflower becomes a replacement for butter-and-flour roux. It's added to seasonings, chicken stock, and a moderate amount of cheese, then topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan, and baked until golden and crunchy on top.
So did it work? It's not nearly as rich and satisfying as a perfect pan of macaroni and cheese. The mouthfeel changes from silky to slightly more starchy. But it hits warm-and-gooey spot, and I didn't feel like taking a nap after. I adapted the recipe somewhat (a little more generous with the cheese, and a little less liquid) but all in all, I'd recommend giving this a try.
- 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into large pieces
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 ounces whole-wheat macaroni
- 1 cup cup grated cheese, such as cheddar, Gruyere, or Emmenthaler
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook cauliflower until soft, 15-20 minutes, then drain and transfer to a food processor. Return pot to a boil and cook macaroni for 5 minutes (until partially cooked.)
In the meantime, heat stock with bay leaves. Simmer for five minutes and turn off the heat.
Process cauliflower with cheese, oil, mustard, and nutmeg. Add stock and blend to create a sauce, aiming for a fairly thick consistency (You may not need all the stock). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer pasta to nine-inch-square baking dish and cover with cauliflower sauce. Spread evenly in dish, top with breadcrumbs and cheese, and bake until golden and bubbling, 30 minutes or so. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.