As a child, my husband would run out of the house and down the street, yelling and waving his arms around frantically in protest anytime his mother would attempt to make him eat cauliflower for dinner. I, on the other hand, love the cruciferous vegetable in any form and am always looking for innovative ways to introduce this fiber-packed little cabbage into our meals.
Now if there is one thing that my husband loves and has the potential to make anything better, its cheese. So when I saw Rachael Ray’s recipe for a smoked gouda mac n’ cheese with cauliflower in it, I knew I finally had a shot of showing him just how lovely this little white wonder can be.
The sweetness of the cooked cauliflower cuts the smokiness of the gouda and the hint of heat from the cayenne really makes this dish a winner. I lightened up the original version by using whole grain pasta, nonfat milk and a reduced fat smoked gouda (Trader Joe’s), then baked it til bubbling after adding a crunchy panko topping. Get ready for a tasty surprise ladies, your hubbies might actually love this one – mine did!
- Coarse salt
- 1/2 pound whole grain penne
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat smoked Gouda
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- small pat of butter
- 1/3 c panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to season the cooking water, then add the pasta. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cauliflower and cook for 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked al dente and the florets are just tender. Drain well and place in casserole dish.
While the pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and heat with the butter until it melts. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to sweat them out and turn the juices sweet. Raise the heat a bit, then whisk in the flour, cayenne, and paprika. Whisk together until the roux bubbles up, then cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in the milk and stock and raise the heat a bit higher to bring the sauce to a quick boil. Once it bubbles, drop the heat back to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens nicely, about 5 minutes.
Add the cheese to the thickened sauce and stir to melt it. Note: reduced fat cheese doesn’t melt as well, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t completely melt down. Stir in the mustard and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over the cauliflower and cooked pasta in the casserole dish and toss to combine.
Melt a pat of butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add panko crumbs to the butter and toss to combine. Sprinkle over the top of your mac n’ cheese and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees until sauce bubbles and panko crust is golden brown. Serve (and try not to eat the entire casserole dish in one night!).