Mac ‘n cheese gets real

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March 22, 2013 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

Back by popular demand (from Eat Happy.)

My kids go crazy for this dish. Really, absolutely crazy. They’ve even gone so far as to say it’s the best thing I’ve ever made (I don’t know about that) and the best thing they’ve ever eaten (well, maybe). Oh, and they’ve never even noticed the cauliflower, which has such a mild flavor that it tends to fade into the background, the poor wall flower that it can be.

You can use any kind of short pasta, but I like macaroni or penne best. For added fiber, try whole wheat or other whole grain pasta; with all the cheese sauce, it’s hard to tell the difference.


1 small head of cauliflower

6 T butter

2 T flour

1 cup whole milk

10 oz. Colby-Jack cheese (I get the packages of pre-sliced cheese and just tear them into pieces when adding to the sauce)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp paprika

dash nutmeg

dash cayenne pepper

grind of fresh black pepper

salt to taste

1 lb pasta


Put a medium pot of filtered water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add 1 T salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions, making sure not to over cook.

Cut cauliflower into 1″ chunks and place in top of steamer. Put 2″ of water in the bottom of the steamer and turn on high heat, cooking until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 8 minutes.

While cauliflower is steaming, put butter into a Dutch oven, if you have one. Otherwise, use a medium, heavy bottomed pan (you can transfer the pasta and sauce to an oven-safe baking pan later).

Heat butter over medium until melted, then add the flour, a tablespoon at a time, whisking as you go. The sauce will begin to thicken slightly (but we don’t want it as thick as a typical roux, as the cauliflower gives it substance later).

Add paprika, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to the butter and flour and mix to blend.

When cauliflower is tender, place in food processor with milk and process until entirely smooth (no lumps!)

Add cauliflower/milk mixture to the flour and butter mixture, mixing well with a wooden spoon.

Reduce heat to medium low and add Colby-Jack cheese, tearing it into 2″ sections and mixing to combine.

Add Parmesan and stir well.

Salt to taste, but remember that your pasta will be slightly salty. I like to take a bite of the cooked pasta and mix it with the cheese to test for the right amount of salt to add.

Drain pasta and add to Dutch oven, mixing thoroughly with cheese sauce.

Cover and transfer to oven and bake for 30 minutes, removing the cover for the last 10 minutes.

If using another baking pan, mix cheese and pasta, then place in greased casserole or Pyrex baking pan, cover with foil, and bake as above, removing foil for the last 10 minutes.

Serve piping hot.

This recipe also makes great left overs for school lunches.

Eat Happy!

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