If I asked you what your favorite vegetable was, I bet you wouldn’t say cauliflower. Or would you?
I’ll admit, cauliflower isn’t my personal favorite. It’s not that I don’t like it. I do. But cauliflower is such a simple vegetable that I feel it’s often not very memorable.
But in this cauliflower mac & cheese recipe, the cauliflower doesn’t get lost. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a prominent flavor among the cheese and onions. Roasting the cauliflower first definitely sweetens and softens it. And then it’s nestled with some sweet and buttery caramelized onions, large chewy elbow pasta and mixed in a ricotta & gruyere cream sauce. Trust me when I tell you that you could omit the cauliflower, but it wouldn’t be as good!
Actually friends, this mac & cheese is so insanely delicious, I could just about weep when I tell you about it.
I roasted the cauliflower for about 20-30 minutes. Just the same amount of time that it took me to caramelize the onions. And I love using chiocciole pasta. These are larger, ribbed elbows with one end pinched nearly shut.
The cheese sauce is incredible! It’s a combination of milk, cream, nutmeg, ricotta & gruyere. The ricotta makes it extra creamy but the gruyere gives it that ooey gooey texture that I just love.
With every ingredient being roasted, browned or caramelized, there is such a great combination and layering of flavors in this macaroni and cheese.
While the sauce is made with cheese and milk and half & half; it’s the ricotta that keeps it incredibly light.
So if you are on the fence about cauliflower, put some into your mac and cheese today! It won’t be hiding and you won’t be able to forget it!
You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.
- 2 heaping cups of cauliflower florets
- 1 large sweet Vidalia onion, chopped into large chunks
- 1 pound of chiocciole pasta, or other large elbow pasta
- 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- 3 Tablespoons of butter, divided (plus extra for greasing your baking dish)
- 15 ounces of whole milk ricotta cheese
- 5 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 2 cups of half and half
- 3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss the cauliflower on a baking sheet, sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and toss.
- Roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower begins to brown slightly.
- Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter in a medium saute pan.
- Heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.
- Add the onions and mix to coat with the butter-oil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender and brown, 20-30 minutes depending on how dark you like your onions to become..
- Set aside.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water until it is al dente (about 2 minutes short of the directions for your particular pasta).
- Drain and set aside.
- In a large pan, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and stir to cook for about 2 minutes.
- Whisk while you slowly add the milk/half and half.
- Bring the mixture to a boil; then turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, while stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 12-15 minutes.
- Add the nutmeg and ricotta and stir to combine.
- Add the drained pasta and stir to combine.
- Add the onions, then the cauliflower and stir.
- Add the gruyere and stir.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the mixture into a buttered 3 quart casserole or pan.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
- Shut off the oven and turn the broiler on high.
- Brown the top of the macaroni and cheese under the broiler for about 4 minutes.
- Serve immediately.