Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Macaroni & Cauliflower & Cheese

I had every intention of making a healthy mac and cheese, and I do think this is a pretty acceptable version, but I wouldn't insult you by saying it's good for you. It started, innocently enough, with this Eat Yourself Skinny recipe. But here's where I went wrong: there was no wheat pasta to be found (only the vegetable kind, which I'm not sure is any better and it didn't come in the right shape anyway) and we certainly don't have Smart Taste or whatever, and I didn't use reduced-fat cheese or fat-free half-and-half - because what the crap is that?? We may have a few reduced-fat cheese options but they're the shredded, processed kind that include additives. Fat-free half-and-half does not exist here and it's silly to think that it's an actual thing - it's full of corn syrup and artificial ingredients. So, I thought it best to use real cheese and milk. What this recipe does have going for it is cauliflower to replace some of the volume of pasta - so it is healthier compared to most versions. But let's be honest, the only way this is healthy is if you eat a small portion - like, smaller than the salad you'll serve next to it:

Mac & Cauliflower & Cheese
  • 325 grams elbow macaroni (about 12 oz?)
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ~ handful of parsley, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 115 grams/4 oz. Finlandia Light (reduced-fat cream cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar, gouda, or similar cheese, shredded (I used half gouda, half Tynbo)
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a bit more
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Few leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • Butter to coat pan
Butter a casserole dish and preheat oven to 375F/190C. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente - adding cauliflower for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Reserve ~1 cup pasta water and drain. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley, 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese and a shake of salt and pepper, set aside. Sauté onion in oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Mix in Finlandia, cheeses, the remaining 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan, milk, mustard, pepper, basil, macaroni and cauliflower, stirring until creamy and combined (about 1 minute), adding reserved pasta water as necessary - I added about 3/4 cup. Pour into prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes. Note that the crumbs won't brown because there's no oil or butter in the topping. If desired, mist the crumbs with olive oil.