There’s nothing quite like a steaming hot bowl of macaroni and cheese. It’s perfect for late summer entertaining and using cauliflower puree in this recipe cuts out a lot of the cheese, making the sauce light and fluffy. Delightful tiny roasted red onions add a smoky sweet kick that your guests just might mistake for bacon. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "I would go full vegetarian if I didn't have to give up bacon." This macaroni and cheese recipe just might do the trick!
The ideal shape for this recipe is rigatoni. I can't say why other than that I've been making my macaroni and cheese with rigatoni pasta for many years. Standard macaroni shaped pasta, cavatappi or fusilli would work well instead.
Always confused by pasta shapes and their beautiful Italian names? Did you know that there's a beautiful coffee table book about the geometry of pasta shapes? It's not only fascinating but makes a great hostess gift!
Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower Puree and Fried Onions
Makes 6-8 portions
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and cut into florets
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup bread crumbs
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Toss a large handful (about ¾ cup) of the cauliflower florets broken into small pieces with the onions in a bowl with the olive oil. Spread them out in a single layer in a large cast-iron pan or glass baking dish. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or until just crispy. Remove the vegetables and set aside. Don’t wash the pan, instead reuse it to bake the macaroni.
3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until just al-dente, about 8 minutes.
4. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Place the remaining cauliflower florets in a steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes then puree in a food processor or blender.
5. Combine the pasta, cauliflower puree, salt, roasted onions and cauliflower, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, milk and cream in a large bowl. Then spoon the mixture back into the baking dish you used to roast the onions and cauliflower.
6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 25 minutes. For extra crispiness, place under the broiler for 3 minutes after baking.
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Ally Jane Grossan is a Brooklyn-based food blogger and editor. Her exotic but easy to follow recipes can be found at Ally-Jane.com.
Images by Ally Jane Grossan.