Cauliflower Alfredo mac ‘n’ cheese

By Daphne Oz
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Cauliflower Alfredo mac 'n' cheese

This is my spin on the comfort food classic. I use cauliflower puree to bulk up the cheesy béchamel sauce of traditional mac ‘n’ cheese. With the addition of creamy ricotta and the salty umami bomb of Parmigiano- Reggiano (and a little butter), you’’ never notice anything missing- or anything added. I also like to go for a pasta made with an alternative flour, since the sauce is the main show here and provides a great opportunity to expose picky taste buds to more nutritious noodles.  Artichoke flour pasta is my favorite, since it doesn’t get overly sticky like rich flour versions and it has better texture than whole wheat varieties. Quinoa pasta options are also good. Whatever your pasta choice, it's mac ‘n’ cheese you can feel veggie good about (oh, I’m hilarious).

SERVES
4
TOTAL TIME

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite size florets and stem pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup of finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat- leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of dried basil

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cauliflower, milk, one teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring the milk to the simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to medium- low, partially cover, and gently cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Carefully transfer the cauliflower and milk to a blender (working in batches if needed- it will be very hot and you don’t want to overfill the blender). Add the butter and pulse a few times to release the steam, then puree until smooth.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the macaroni and cook it three minutes less than the package instructs. Reserving ½ cup of cooking water, drain the pasta.
  4. While the pasta cooks, in a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and half teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the shallots are tender, two to three minutes. Add the cauliflower puree and veggie broth. Stir to combine.
  5. Stir the ricotta, half cup of the Parmigiano, and the nutmeg into the sauce, then add the macaroni and stir to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add some of the pasta water or vegetable broth.
  6. Preheat the broiler. Then, in a small bowl, mix together the panko, parsley, basil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the remaining ¼ cup Parmigiano and two tablespoons olive oil. Rub between your fingers to combine.
  7. Pour the pasta mixture into greased nine x 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the seasoned panko over the top and broil just one or two minutes, until topping is a deep golden brown.

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