School is starting back up, the weather is (hopefully!) cooling off and my thoughts turn towards comfort food that is quick to put on the table. But I hate the thought of all those calories from traditional comfort food adding up, especially as we head into the holiday season. I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about cauliflower Mac & Cheese but was willing to give it a try. After all, trying to get a few more veggies into my family’s diet while being able to put a dish together in under 30 minutes is a worthy goal, plus the sauce is naturally gluten-free which means I don’t have to make two separate dishes.
The bottom line? Since I made this recipe about four years ago it has become one of my all time favorite Mac & Cheese recipes that I have used….and I make it fairly often. The sauce is super creamy and there’s no taste of the pound or so of cauliflower anywhere so the kids don’t know they’re eating veggies. Now we can enjoy our comfort food without the guilt!
Sneaky Mac & Cheese
1 head cauliflower (about 1 pound) chopped
16 ounces elbow macaroni (gluten-free pasta can be used if desired), cooked and drained according to package directions and kept warm in the pot it was cooked in
1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 cup (5 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes*
1 clove fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or gluten-free bread crumbs)
Place cauliflower in a steamer basket set over 1-inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.
While cauliflower is cooking, place yogurt, sour cream, broth, oil, cheese, nutritional yeast, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in the base of a high powered blender.
Blend until mixed together.
Once cauliflower is tender, add vegetable to the sauce ingredients in the blender.
Blend until completely smooth.
Pour sauce over cooked and drained pasta, stirring to combine.
Place the pot over low heat and gently stir until dish is thoroughly heated.
Place the pasta into a serving bowl and allow it to rest 5 minutes, then stir one more time before serving.
It may appear that there is too much sauce, but the pasta will absorb as it sits.
I think placing a bread or crumb topping on Mac & Cheese is a regional thing. I never see Mac & Cheese served with topping in California, but have seen it in other states. If you prefer your Mac & Cheese with a crunchy topping, here are the instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F)
Brown the panko bread crumbs in a small skillet set over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to keep from burning.
Place the toasted crumbs into a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Instead of heating the sauce and pasta together on the stove-top, transfer the sauce coated pasta to a greased 9×13-inch casserole dish.
Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the panko mixture on top.
Bake an additional 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
*Don’t use regular bread yeast! See information on Nutritional Yeast at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritional_yeast