Last year's Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese persuaded me that mac 'n' cheese has a revered place on the Thanksgiving table. Call it the 'people's choice'.
So just for fun, I tried another vegetable version, this time with pan-roasted cauliflower and not so much a 'cheese' sauce as a 'pepper cream' sauce.
It's great! The pepper really contrasts with the nuttiness of the cauliflower and the toothsome bite of the pasta. It's another winner -- worthy of a place on a festive table.
The recipe is easy enough, but does require a pan or two or three. But the results are -- to my taste -- worth the time and effort.
CAULIFLOWER MAC 'N' CHEESE
Time to table: 75 minutes
Makes about 4 cups
8 ounces dried pasta, Dreamfields Pasta for carb-watchers and diabetics
Cook the pasta according to instructions, being sure to salt the water well. Drain.
2 tablespoon unsalted butter (one tablespoon per skilletful of cauliflower)
1 large head cauliflower, leaves removed, core cut out in a large V-shaped cone, head cut into bite-size florets
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter on MEDIUM HIGH until sizzly and beginning to brown. Add about some cauliflower, only enough for a single layer, toss well to coat with fat. Turning just once, let cook until browned, about 4 - 5 minutes. Put aside and repeat until all the cauliflower is cooked.
8 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Fresh thyme leaves
Add to cauliflower skillet and cook over MEDIUM until crumbs are quite brown.
Preheat oven to 400F. In the pasta pot, stir together cooked pasta, cooked cauliflower and sauce. Taste sauce -- make sure it's peppery. If not, keep adding pepper. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over top. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes or until hot and bubbly clear through.
TO PREP AHEAD
DAY BEFORE Cook cauliflower. Make crumb topping.
MORNING OF Cook pasta. Mix sauce. Assemble.
BEFORE DINNER Return to room temperature. Top with crumb topping, bake at 400F for 45 - 60 minutes until hot and bubbly clear through.
After cooking the cauliflower in the skillet, I wondered if roasting it might have been quicker and easier.
I used the Dreamfield's pasta I had on hand, penne, but I think that 'ears'/orichiette or something smaller would soak up the sauce a little better.
~ Cauliflower Cream ~
~ Creamy Cauliflower Gratin ~
~ Cauliflower with Pancetta, Capers & Parmesan ~
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
~ Thanksgiving Vegetable Recipes 2008 ~
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