Box Macaroni and Cheese was probably one of the first things I learned how to cook. I freaking loved the stuff. And then I learned how to make it from scratch and my world was changed. Still to this day, when I see a dish of warm gooey mac and cheese, I get a little weak in the knees. However, nowadays I have to be aware of how many starches I consume because of this diabetes thing (or what I like to call my inner Wilford Brimley). I still enjoy the normal stuff from time to time, but I’ve been working on a suitable substitute for the times I really just shouldn’t but I’m gonna do it anyway.
Yes, yes…cauliflower can’t do EVERYTHING, can it? Well, no. If you’re looking for something that’s going to make you say “No way, this can’t be CAULIFLOWER! I thought it was regular noodles” then keep looking. This it totally cauliflower and cheese. But it tastes good and it scratches that itch when I get it. If you’re looking for something that’s gluten free, there’s plenty of good gluten free pasta substitutes out there that the sauce would still taste great on. However, please be aware that as written, this recipe is *NOT* gluten free. There is all-purpose flour in the roux because I’m not satisfied with substitute thickeners for this use of roux yet. You can sub it out with gluten free all purpose flour, or your can thicken the milk with straight cornstarch or arrowroot, but I also want to see if this works with a cassava flour roux swap out.
I also find that people tend to fall into one of two camps: the “just gimme the mac and cheese straight out of the pot” people and the “no you have to top it with breadcrumbs and bake that first” people. This works both ways. Just consume at your preferred doneness. If you don’t do gluten, you can find gluten free panko out there. If you don’t do bready things all together, you can top this with ground up pork rinds for the same effect. If you’re going with pork rinds, skip the extra melted butter and just top with pork rinds and grated parmesan.
Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese
2 heads cauliflower, broken into small florets
6 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten free substitute)
salt and pepper
2 cups whole milk (unsweetened original almond milk also works)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz gruyere, shredded
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup Panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Set a vegetable steamer in a large pot with some water, and steam the cauliflower until it is tender, but still has bite. It will continue to cook in the sauce (and in the oven if you do that part) so you don’t want it over done. Drain and transfer to a casserole dish.
In a large deep pan, melt the 6 Tbsp of butter and whisk in the flour. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook a few minutes, until the flour is cooked and smells slightly nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk to avoid lumps. Add dijon mustard. Congratulations, you just made bechamel. When the sauce is bubbly, add the cheddar and gruyere, stirring to combine. You should have a beautifully thick cheese sauce now. Pour over the cauliflower.
In a bowl, melt the remaining butter and add the panko, parmesan, and garlic powder. Sprinkle over the top of the cauliflower and cheese. Place in a 350 deg F oven and bake until the topping is slightly browned.
Note: This cheese sauce should be a little thicker than normal cheese sauce because the cauliflower will release some juices in when they’re cooking together in the oven. If you’re subbing out the cauliflower for actual pasta, increase the milk to 3-4 cups total and increase your shredded cheeses accordingly for a total of about 6 cups of shredded cheese.