Sunday Cooking Adventures: Surprise macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese and a surprise ingredient!

Macaroni and cheese and a surprise ingredient!

I think this is one of the most clever recipes I have ever made.

You may be familiar with Ellie Krieger. She is a dietician who has a Food Network show called “Healthy Appetite.” She has been a contributing editor and columnist for Fine Cooking magazine. She has published several books, including  “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life,” which was a New York Times bestseller.  I’ve made several of her dishes and I’ve never been disappointed. I also find that she has clever, healthful ways of putting together ingredients.

This recipe was very unusual because the white sauce is made with — wait for it — cauliflower! After steaming cauliflower, onions and garlic, you add milk and heat it up. Then you add the cheese. It’s not as much cheese as you’d find in traditional mac and cheese recipes. I actually increased the cheddar to one cup. I only had a cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand  (the original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups). It still tasted really good, even though I adjusted the amounts a little. I also used whole wheat pasta (because I always do). And, it goes without saying that I left out the salt (even in the pasta water. I know, I know, but you get used to it.)


When I tasted it, I expected to be overwhelmed with cauliflower, but if i hadn’t known it was there, I wouldn’t have guessed it. It was creamy and tasty. If you’re a vegetarian, you might like this because although you get the cheese flavor, it’s not overwhelmingly cheesy. Low in fat and highly nutritious, this is a great recipe for anyone trying to cut calories yet keep the flavor in old favorites.

Let me know if you like it! Here is a link to the original recipe: Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Cheese


Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Cheese
adapted from a recipe by Ellie Krieger in Fine Cooking magazine, Issue 121

4 cups 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 lb. I used a whole head)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
12 oz. dried whole wheat penne
2 cups skim milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1) Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

2) Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a steamer basket set over 1 inch of boiling water in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.

3) Fill the pot three-quarters full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

4) While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.

5)  In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an 8-inch square baking dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Leave a Reply

Read previous post:
Believe me, you don't want to be wheeled into open heart surgery in your 40s or 50s because of the types of food you choose to eat.
Update: We are killing ourselves

I saw something in Henry Ford Hospital in December that really disturbed me. I haven’t talked about it except with...