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Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower and Tomatoes

Updated on September 12, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

The Great Debate

In the history of mankind there have been many serious debate topics:

  • Heavenly salvation from faith or good works (Luther versus Tetzel).
  • Quantum physics theories (Einstein vs. Neils Bohr).
  • Intelligent design or Creationism vs. Evolution (Clarence Darrow vs. Wm. Jennings Bryan)

May I add one more to the list? -- Home made macaroni and cheese, or the stuff in the box?

Do you remember these cute kids from the 1970's?

So what makes boxed macaroni and cheese so amazing?

On the grand celestial scale of right and wrong, there are a few things that could lead one to favor boxed macaroni and cheese. For example:

  • It's cheap!
  • It's easy to prepare
  • Kids love the taste
  • It takes very little time and (even less talent)

But, there are other things to consider--namely nutritional value and taste.

What makes this "grown-up" macaroni and cheese better?

  • A variety of cheeses (real cheeses, not powder)
  • Dijon mustard provides a perfect tangy foil to the creamy cheeses
  • I have suggested penne pasta, but you can choose whatever shape you want--it doesn't have to be tubular macaroni!
  • Cauliflower adds fiber, tomatoes add color--and so much more (see notes below)
  • Baking the casserole gives this macaroni and cheese that delicious brown, crunchy, cheesy goodness all of us love

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Cauliflower?

  • Cauliflower is very low in calories (100 grams is only 26 calories).
  • It is high in fiber--100 grams provides 5 percent of the daily recommended value.
  • Cauliflower contains several anti-cancer phyto-chemicals.
  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin C. 100 grams provides 80 percent of the daily recommended value. Remember, Vitamin-C is a proven antioxidant helps fight against harmful free radicals, boosts immunity and prevents from infections and cancers.
  • Cauliflower also contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3) as well as vitamin K.
  • It is also a good source of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium.

And What's So Great About Canned Tomatoes?

  • Tomatoes are a rich source of several nutrients. They are well known for their high vitamin C content, but also contain significant amount of vitamin A, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous and calcium.
  • They are high in fiber.
  • Recent research has also identified lycopene (abundant in tomatoes) as an important antioxidant. Lycopene is actually more readily available to the body when tomatoes are cooked—so canned tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse.

Equipment you will need

  • Large pot for cooking cauliflower and pasta
  • colander for draining pasta
  • wire whisk
  • Large saute pan
  • Large casserole dish

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 15 min
Yields: 8 generous servings


  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), broken into small florettes
  • 1 15-oz. can stewed tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded medium Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded gouda cheese or smoked gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 12 oz. dry penne pasta


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook cauliflower in large pot of salted water until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  3. Over medium heat in large open pan saute cooked cauliflower in 2 tablespoons olive oil until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add drained stewed tomatoes and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes to meld flavors. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir one minute. Whisk in cream; cook until sauce thickens. Add 1 cup cheddar cheese, the gouda, parmesan, and mustard and continue to cook until all cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in sour cream and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, and return pasta to pot. Stir in cheese sauce.
  6. Butter a large casserole dish and spoon in 1/3 of pasta mixture. Cover with one-half of cauliflower mixture and ½ cup of reserved cheddar cheese. Repeat layering, finishing with 1/3 of pasta mixture.
  7. Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven until heated through and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

© 2014 Linda Lum


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