Is there anything more comforting than mac and cheese? The warm ooey gooey cheesy goodness is hard to beat. My favorite mac and cheese recipe is a show-stopper with substantially more cheese than pasta in the recipe, but it’s the kind of dish I make only once or twice a year for a special occasion. If you’re looking for an everyday mac and cheese, this lightened up version may be just the thing.
I’ve taken a three-pronged approach to lightening things up. First, the pasta. I used a combination of regular pasta (gemelli, I think those twists are called) and chickpea fusilli. Legume pasta is all the rage where I live, and it’s so great to see such a selection on the shelves these days, from red lentil penne to black bean spaghetti, there are so many to try. Using part legume pasta means you substantially bump up the protein and fiber content of the dish. You could certainly use all legume pasta, but if you’re trying to get the dish past a discerning palate they may find the taste and texture too “healthy,” if you know what I mean. I like to use a blend to start, and once people are used to the taste I’ll increase the percentage of legume pasta.
Then there’s the sauce. We start with a smaller amount of classic cheese sauce, then pump up the volume by stirring cauliflower puree through the mix. The neutral flavor and velvety texture of the cauliflower puree is a perfect match, and using a strongly flavored cheese like Parmesan in the sauce ensures that the cheese flavor doesn’t get dulled down.
And lastly, the remaining cauliflower florets get broken down into bite sized pieces and stirred in with the pasta, bumping up the vegetable content of the dish. It’s like a beautiful marriage between mac and cheese and the classic British cauliflower cheese, and the result is a comforting and healthful dish you can feel good about serving any day of the week.
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