Its almost that time of year where comfort food is shelved in favor of salads and lighter meals more suitable to the warmer weather. But today is a little dreary and grey and its making me feel like a mac and cheese is in order.
This mac and cheese is warm and comforting, but it’s sauce is nice and light so it wont leave you with that heaviness in your belly that traditional mac and cheese sometimes does. The secret ingredient in the sauce is cauliflower. It makes the sauce so creamy without even a quarter of the fat or calories as a mac and cheese recipe using cream or even whole milk as a base. You would have to be living under a rock to not notice all the cauliflower recipes on pinterest lately, and I’m not going to claim that my recipe is better or different, but its the one I use and I know it rocks!
This recipe is extremely versatile. You can add as much cheese or as little as you like. The sauce has so much flavor and creaminess even without the cheese so it doesn’t need a ton. My recipe below has 2 cups of cheese which makes the sauce quite cheesy, however, I have made this recipe with less than half and its still amazing. The cheese on top that gets all crunchy and delicious is my favorite part. Kevin always gives me shit when we have leftovers because I constantly snack on the top layer. This time, almost all of it was gone by the time he had his dinner, but I blamed it on needing the top part to make the pictures look good and a little on Debbie. He he he… I’m not sure he bought it, but he didn’t say anything more. Hey, there are some serious benefits to being the cook!
I love the salty bacon, smoked ham and green peas combo, but I have also made it with chicken, mushrooms and peppers. You could really add whatever veggies and protein you like. I bet kids would even love broccoli if it was a part of this combination.
If you don’t eat gluten or you try to stay away from it, you will love this recipe. Its simple to make this dish gluten free. Just use gluten free pasta noodles. There is no thickening agent needed for this sauce, the cauliflower does that job, so you don’t need to make a roux with with flour and butter like you do when you make a sauce with milk. Even if you usually use cornstarch to thicken your sauce, this recipe eliminates that step. I like that.
So if your in the mood for some creamy, cheesy noodles but you don’t want to compromise your healthy eating plan, this is your recipe now. Your welcome 😉
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Aged Cheddar, Ham & Peas
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups aged white cheddar
- 1 cup cheese for the top
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 500 g smoked ham , diced
- 500 g gluten free pasta (or regular pasta)
- Heat a pot on medium heat. Add the olive oil and diced onions. Sprinkle with the salt and sauté for a couple mins.
- Chop up the cauliflower head, discard the stem and any green leaves, wash it and throw the cauliflower in the pot.
- Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. When it's boiling, turn down the heat a little and simmer until the cauliflower is nice and soft. About 8 to 10 mins or so.
- Blend it up with an immersion blender or regular blender to make the cauliflower nice and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 1/2 to 3/4 of the cheese and stir until it's melted.
- Add the peas and smoked ham an stir to combine.
- Meanwhile, heat a pot of water on high heat. When it's boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box, but don't cook it all the way. Make sure there is a little bite to the pasta.
- Drain the pasta well and add it to the cauliflower cheese sauce and the pour the whole mixture into a large casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at 400 degrees until it's browned and bubbling. About 25 - 30 mins.