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Mac ‘n cheese takes a walk on the light side

maccheesecauliflower0I do loves me some mac ‘n cheese. In my book, there’s just no better comfort food. But, I’m preaching to the choir, right? Because why else would you be reading this, except for seeing mac ‘n cheese in the title.

As much as I’m loathe to admit it, however, it’s not the healthiest thing. And as someone who has lost two siblings and, very recently, a father, to various forms of heart disease, it’s probably time to face the music.

So, the Fall issue of Food Network Magazine made me sit up and take notice when they had a “light” recipe for my beloved macaroni and cheese. And this time, “light” didn’t mean watery milk or flavorless cheese. Comfort food with no flavor is no comfort. You’re with me on this one, right?

The secret ingredient is … now, don’t run away screaming … cauliflower. Well-cooked, pureed cauliflower. You don’t even taste it (although personally, I love the flavor of cauliflower) — it just adds body that is normally provided by a roux or bechamel sauce. At approximately 400 calories per 1-1/3 cup serving, you won’t be ruing the lack of roux.

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Does this look like you’re being deprived of rich, creamy, cheesy, noodlely goodness? I thought not.

Macaroni and Cheese with a Secret
Adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2009
  1 large egg
  1 12 oz can evaporated whole milk
  pinch cayenne pepper
  pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  2 cups grated cheese (Mix it up, use a combo. Sharp cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, fontina are excellent possibilities and readily available. All four sound good? Go for it. You won’t be sorry.)
  4 cups cauliflower (about 1 head), separated into florets
  4 cups pasta (I used rotini in the photos, but I also love cavatappi. Would I say “no” to this recipe with elbows or shells? As if.)

1. Whisk the egg, evaporated milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl. Toss the grated cheeses in a separate bowl.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until almost falling apart, about 7 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the pasta to the same water and cook until al dente, per the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Preheat the broiler.

3. Combine the egg mixture and the grated cheeses in the empty pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheeses melt and the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and add the cauliflower. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and light (you can also use a regular blender). Stir in some of the reserved pasta water until creamy.

4. Toss the pasta in the sauce; season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a shallow casserole dish. Broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (I didn’t broil mine; I couldn’t wait that long.)

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Saturday 5th of March 2016

If you want mac and cheese without the calories of the roux try this recipe. It's stellar. I LOVE cauliflower. It's one of my favorite veggies. However, I do not like this nasty trend of trying to substitute it for rice, potatoes and pasta. I know people say 'It tastes just like the real thing(s)! IT DOES NOT! It tastes like cauliflower in a dish it doesn't belong in. This recipe contains no butter, no flour, nothing to adulterate the flavor of the glorious cheese. The more luscious the cheese you choose, the more luscious the flavor! As far as calories? It says it makes five, so that is 386 calories (using skim milk) per serving, but that is some very saucy servings. I usually either hold out enough to drizzle over a broccoli cauliflower mix for 2 at dinner the following night, or my favorite, throw a couple cups each of broccoli and cauliflower with the pasta for the last few minutes, We only do that though when it's just the 2 of us and we aren't going to run it through the oven to brown, sometimes you just can't wait that long! The cheese sauce also makes some excellent cheesy potatoes. I just add a little onion and garlic, and everyone raves.


Monday 7th of November 2011

This looks fantastic - what a good idea! I love macaroni cheese and also cauliflower cheese so this is just the best of both! Fab!


Tuesday 13th of April 2010

Well, this just made my morning! Thank you so much for the kind comments, I appreciate it. (I really hope you enjoy the tzatziki sauce!)


Monday 12th of April 2010

SoupAddict... You are a goddess. This is the third recipe of yours that I've tried. The first being the fish taco sauce, the second being your grilled cheese. And... I already have the fourth planned, the tzaziki sauce & gyros. Please, please, keep blogging yer little heart out!!! I know of several tummy's who are eternally grateful.

P.S. I enjoy reading your stuff just as much as I (we) enjoy eating it.


Friday 6th of November 2009

Looks soo good!!