Cauliflower Mac n Cheese ♥ Recipe

Who needs fresh bread crumbs? Just sprinkle the casserole with a crumb topping made from panko
Today's Thanksgiving recipe idea: Mac 'n' cheese for grown-ups, with pan-roasted cauliflower and a peppery cream sauce. Made low-carb with low-glycemic pasta from Dreamfields.

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

Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 75 minutes
Makes about 4 cups

PASTA
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.

CAULIFLOWER
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.

SAUCE
8 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Stir together.

CRUMB TOPPING
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.

ASSEMBLY
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.


KITCHEN NOTES
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.

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Here at A Veggie Venture, vegetables are the real stars of the Thanksgiving table. So watch for new Thanksgiving recipes all November long, new additions to my collection of Thanksgiving vegetable recipes. Whether it's 2006's famous World's Best Green Bean Casserole or 2007's favorite Cauliflower Cream or a brand-new recipe which catches your fancy, this year, move vegetables to your center stage.
© Copyright 2008

8 comments:

Oh, how I wish I could get over my dislike of cauliflower -- this looks like a wonderful meatless entree as well as a side dish.

Mmmmhhhh, that looks like proper comfort food.

Love the idea of this one. My dad loves his mac n cheese plain though, if ketchup on top is plain.

I'm still talking and baking that Butternut Mac'n'Cheese so I guess I'd best be trying this one!

Alanna:

I just wanted to drop you a note to say how wonderful it was to have met you and the other great bloggers at the Quaker event.

Your site is simply amazing!! I will be adding it to my faves, for sure. So many recipes, so little time, and only one stomach! Ha!

Keep up the good work!!

Thanks!

I read a lot, and throughout my reading, I keep hearing about having mac and cheese for special dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas. That just blows my mind, because my Minnesota heritage doesn't acknowledge that at all.

It sounds like instead of having breads in various forms like we do, other people view mac and cheese in that vein. I have come to the conclusion that it is a regional dish like having Brussels sprouts in casserole form (eastern coast) for the holiday meals. We don't have those either. For other meals, yes, but it isn't one of our mandatory dishes for the holidays. Isn't this just too intriguing???

Our holidays have stuffing (with or without apples, nuts and our personal favourite- with smoked oysters and onions and celery), corn or corn pudding, green beans in a casserole or alone, squash with all its various additions such as brown sugar or marshmallows (we like it just plain with butter salt and pepper), mashed potatoes, cranberries, relishes, crescent rolls, apple , mince or pumpkin pies.

A lot of us also have wild rice, either plain with butter,salt and pepper or paired with white rice in a creamed casserole dish.

Moms all around Minnesota always tried to get veggies in us with a salad, but most of us opted for just the celery sticks, carrot sticks and those most loved veggies, green olives. Black olives were tolerated for color contrast, but they didn't have the addictive saltiness of those lovely, pimientoed greens.

Of course the appetizer course always included herring, but my husband is Norwegian and can't stand those lovely pickled fish. I can and do. I'm not Norwegian...and of course, I love lutefisk, he doesn't. I 'fight' with his brother for a good chunk at dinner and my father-in-law just chuckles as he eats his portion. My sister-in-law makes it but refuses to eat it. I came upon lutefisk late in life, around fifteen or so years ago, and have loved it ever since. I don't have it every holiday, but as often as I can. I even go to one of our local restaurants to have it...alone. It is a staple for our Scandanavian heritage to have various churches in our town to make and serve lutefisk dinners for the holidays. Haven't gone there as the restaurant in town serves an enormous plate of it to you.

But making mac and cheese, God's gift to us, our most loving comfort food, a specialty item on a holiday table has me just bamboozled to say the least. But hey, I'm willing to join the bandwagon.

Thanks for the lovely recipes and a chance to see what the rest of the nation eats for the holidays. It is better than reading specialty cookbooks for me.

Huggs,
Cait

As I was reading your recipe, I was wondering "wouldn't it be easier to just *roast* the cauliflower?" LOL What a great idea Alanna! I'll have to try this it sounds so good.

I just found your blog and am wishing that I would have found it sooner! I am always looking for new and exciting ways to prepare veggies and this is exactly what I need!

This Cauliflower Mac & cheese is going on the menu for next week! I wanted to make it right away tonight since I had the cauliflower, but didn't have the cheese and cream, so I guess it will have to wait.

You can bet that several of the Thanksgiving recipes will end up on the table this year!!

Thanks again!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna