If you like fresh baked Mac and Cheese (I have a delicious 3 cheese one - click here,) then you will dig into my Baked Cauliflower with Pasta and Cheese. This is a perfect one-pot meal for the family. I used cream and regular cheese, but you could lighten it up with 2% milk and low fat cottage cheese. You can also bake with wheat, whole grain or gluten-free pasta.
Milk, cauliflower (or frozen florets) and pasta are often priced cheaply from a regular grocery store, too.
I bought an 8-ounce bag of cubed cheddar cheese and a 3-ounce package of shredded mozzarella at my local 99c only Store. Anytime I see cheese on sale I get a few packages to freeze -- if you are going to melt it, then you can freeze it. Most any cheese on sale can be used in this recipe.
The recipe preparations are quick. Cook some pasta, and remove the florets from the cauliflower. The cheese I got on sale was already cubed or shredded (no need to shred cheese, if you don't want to, cubed or sliced is good enough.) And once your casserole dish is in the oven, that's it -- just chill out for 45 minutes until it's done. Oh, you do have to open the oven once, and take the casserole top off during the last 15 minutes, so the cheese browns a little.
Pasta and cauliflower go well together, especially in The 99 Cent Chef's latest creamy concoction.
Baked Cauliflower, Pasta and Cheese - Video
Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 14 seconds.
To view or embed from YouTube, click here.
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
- *1 whole cauliflower - break off florets. Okay to keep green and white leaves (as long as they are not wilted or too old.) In my video I left out the green and white leaves.
- *11 ounces of cheese total. I used an 8 ounce package of low fat Mild Cheddar (2 cups cubed) and 3 ounces shredded Mozzarella (about 1/2 cup.) Fresh shaved, or cheap grated Parmesan would be a flavorful addition. *You can add, or subtract, as much cheese as you like. Or a medium carton (about 15 ounces) of low-fat Cottage Cheese is lighter substitution.
- 1 1/2 cups of milk - okay to use low fat or regular. In the video I show a cup, but would actually use 1 1/2 cups, when I make it again.
- 1 cup of cream - I used whipping cream (a small, half pint carton,) but you can use any type. Also, okay to keep it low fat and use regular milk (or reduced fat.)
- Half a package of pasta - any type really. I used about 8 ounces of Penne. Bowtie, spirals, shell, macaroni, even spaghetti (break in half,) would be fine.
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch or flour.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
*I've seen packages of frozen cauliflower florets, which you could conveniently use.
Cook pasta about half the recommended cooking time. You will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.
Break down whole cauliflower by just snapping (or slicing) off the florets. Work from the outside of cauliflower and move inward. You can halve the largest florets, if you want. Set aside.
Add 1 heaping teaspoon of cornstarch, or flour, into 1 1/2 cups of milk, and whisk. Pour into a casserole dish or ovenproof pot (should hold at least 8 cups or 2 quarts.) Next, add a cup of cream (or an equal amount of milk.)
Add half or the pasta, cauliflower and cheese (save 1/2 cup Mozzarella and/or Parmesan as a topping.) Mix, then add the rest. Season with salt and pepper (not too much salt, as cheese has plenty.) Mix again and top with a layer of Mozzarella and/or Parmesan cheese.
Just to be safe, make sure that the milk and cream does not reach the top lip of your baking dish -- leave an inch from the top, pasta may expand a little. You could put a baking pan underneath in case any liquid bubbles out.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To finish, just remove cover and allow cheese to lightly brown for about 10 -15 minutes.
And save the best part of any pasta and cheese bake - the socarraet (burnt rice on the bottom of a Spanish paella,) which is, crispy caramelized pasta and cheese that's scraped from the bottom of the casserole dish!
First, I would cut down on the baking time by 10 minutes. The pasta and cauliflower were a little mushy, but still delicious -- this is a personal preference.
My recipe ingredients are easy to double to feed many more -- you just need a big enough pot (or two) with a cover (or foil.) You could also stretch the recipe by adding a whole package of pasta; just make sure to add an extra cup of milk, because pasta soaks up any liquid.
For more color, you could make this dish with broccoli, or add some to the cauliflower. Even chunky slices of carrot sweeten in this creamy concoction. I left out the cauliflower leaves and stems. Next time I would use them both-- chopping up the stem into bite-sized pieces. I would also add a sauteed small chopped onion with a tablespoon of garlic.
For my non-vegetarian visitors, add some crisped crumbled cooked bacon (or a package of bacon bits,) chopped ham, or even sauteed ground beef, chicken or turkey, for more heft. You could also mix in some shredded leftover chicken, or a small can of chicken.