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Baked Pasta with Cauliflower and Cheese (aka Healthy Mac N Cheese)
Baked Pasta with Cauliflower and Romano Sauce
This recipe is a healthy version of mac n cheese that the kids will devour and the adults will love too. Getting your kids to eat their vegetables is easy with this dish. Pureed cauliflower replaces the majority of the cheese and butter found in typical macaroni and cheese recipes. The flavor and texture of this baked pasta dish is delicious, and you can even enjoy an extra serving guilt-free. Try making this entree for your family and friends without telling them they are getting a serving of vegetables mixed in. When they learn of the healthy ingredients involved in this recipe, they are sure to be pleasantly surprised.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 3 cups spiral pasta, (or pasta of your choice)
- 1 large head cauliflower, cored and chopped into florets
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, (optional)
- 2 cups romano cheese, grated
Colorful Casserole Dishes
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the salt and pasta. Cook until tender.
- Immediately place the cauliflower florets in a steamer above the boiling pasta. If you don't have a steamer designed to work with your pot, you can simply place a colander above the boiling water to steam the cauliflower. Cover the cauliflower and steam until tender.
- Remove the drained pasta from the pot when it is tender and set it aside in a large bowl. You may need to leave the water in the pot and continuing steaming the cauliflower.
- Remove the cauliflower from the steamer once it is tender and place it in a food processor. Add the milk, butter and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Blend until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Pour the cauliflower sauce over the pasta and stir until the noodles are thoroughly coated.
- Pour the cauliflower and noodles into a 8x8 casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the pasta. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the tin foil and bake the pasta for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.
- Add a bit of nutmeg, cayenne or other spice of your choice.
- Mix in precooked, ground Italian sausage, chorizo sausage or diced ham. Also, kids tend to really enjoy diced hot dogs in this version of mac n cheese.
- Mix in other vegetables to add color and flavor. Add any vegetables that you enjoy, such as chopped broccoli, zucchini slices, diced red pepper, carrots, pearl onions, corn or peas.
- Substitute grated Parmesan cheese in place of the Romano, or use another cheese of your preference. Hard cheeses that are freshly grated for this recipe lend the riches flavor to the cauliflower sauce. Mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top can also be quite tasty and gives that gooey deliciousness that many enjoy.
- Substitute cream or half-in-half in replace of the milk and butter. Whole milk and cream will make for a richer and thicker sauce. However, using cream will add calories.
- Use whole wheat pasta for an even healthier macaroni and cheese recipe. Whole wheat pasta has more fiber and nutrients than bleached flour pastas.
- Use different styles of pasta. Spiral shaped fusilli pasta holds the cauliflower and cheese sauce well, but other pastas work well in baked pasta. Some pasta shapes you may want to try in addition to the standard macaroni noodle are bow ties, or penne. Get creative and enjoy your food.