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This spin on Mac & Cheese is surprisingly rich, creamy, and packed with flavor. Its also full of fiber, potassium, and protein. Pairing a dry cheese like Parmesan with the traditional sharp (2%) cheddar cuts down on the cholesterol while retaining the strong, salty flavor. I cook the cauliflower florets in chicken broth (which imparts a great flavor) just to al dente so that their substitution of a portion of the pasta doesn’t make you feel like you are missing something.
Traditional Mac & Cheese is heavy, but tasty. Its rich and gooey, but also guilt inducing. Whether its dressed up with 2, 4, 0r 6 different kinds of cheese, or sits under a delicate drizzle of truffle oil, its a comfort food I crave.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I have a major weakness when it comes to this pub food. I try not to eat it unless I’ve eaten healthy and clean all week. Its a treat in my mind because it doesn’t traditionally have very much nutritional value. I say traditionally, because I’ve changed that with my Cauliflower Mac & Cheese. Ive made it so simple and healthy that its light enough to eat during these hot and humid August days, but a nice treat when it does finally start to cool down. When I have a string of bad flare-ups of my Fibromyalgia, or come down with the inevitable summertime cold, having a plate of this makes me feel a little more optimistic.
Here is a comparison of the nutritional value between my Mac & Cheese vs Epicurious.com’s “Our Favorite Macaroni and cheese.” I’ve cut out over 200 calories per serving, reduced the fat and cholesterol both by half.
Cauliflower (Whole Wheat) Mac &Cheese
Makes 4 servings
- 1 small head of cauliflower, (4-5 cups) cut into 2 inch bite size pieces
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup whole wheat macaroni, penne, or casarecce pasta
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- 1 cup cashew milk, (or fat free milk)
- 1/4 tsp Salt (add 1/8 if needed)
- 1/8 tsp sweet paprika
- 2.5oz (2/3 cup) Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 2 oz (2/3 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup whole wheat panko crumbs
Preheat oven to 375° and spray a 9×9 or 11×7 pan with cooking spray.
- In a large, shallow saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add in the cauliflower in one layer, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the pieces are still a bit al dente. You don’t want them to be mushy. Use a slotted spoon and move the cauliflower into a bowl. Set aside.
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil, and once boiling salt well. Stir in the pasta and cook according to its directions. Drain and add to the bowl with the cauliflower. Set aside.
- In the same pot used to boil the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the milk a little at a time, whisking well after each addition to avoid lumps. Once all the milk is added, add in the salt and paprika, and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.
- Whisk in the cheeses until melted. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the pasta and cauliflower. Pour into prepared pan.
- In a small pan over medium heat, melt the 1/2 tbsp butter. Add the soy sauce to it and combine. Pour in the panko and stir constantly until all the butter mixture is soaked up and the panko is lightly toasted, about 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle over top of mac & cheese and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until heated through.