cheesy nutmeggy macaroni with cauliflower

We’ve had snow on the ground for the past few days.

Not a lot.  But it’s noticeable on the edges.

And the temperature has barely been above 35 degrees.

It’s the first turn to real Fall … a big bold hint that Winter’s just around the corner … and that gets me hankering for food that’s warm and cozy and nutmeggy and cheesy … good and good for you.

Now this is not a low carb, gluten free dinner option.

And I haven’t figured out a version of this recipe with soaked flour or homemade pasta. (Apparently, soaking your grains, seeds, legumes and nuts in traditional cooking method can break down the phytates and make the minerals and nutrients easier to absorb.)  I’m working on it.

But in the meantime, the ingredients are whole real foods.  It’s good.  It’s good for you (unless you’re lactose intolerant or have an allergy to gluten).

The Cowboy likes this mac and cheese.

The littles in our house like this mac and cheese.

And even though I didn’t take a photo of them (I have to get better about taking more photos … seriously … a lesson I need to learn from Miss Abby), the twin 2-year-olds who were here for dinner like this mac and cheese.

They like it even though it’s not bright yellow, nor made with skinny little elbows.

They like it even though it’s got ”grown up” cheeses in it, like Asiago and Gruyere.

And they even like it with cauliflower (which maybe you could switch out with squash … I’m thinking this would be delicious with squash and I’m going to have to try that sooner rather than later).

So for now, here’s my tried and true mac and cheese and cauliflower extravaganza … it’s cheesy, nutmeggy, buttery and veggie-filled cold-weather-warm food.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups pasta (cooked)
  • 2 cups cauliflower (steamed and chopped into bite-size pieces)
  • 6 Tbls. butter
  • bread flour (I need to figure out the ratio if I were to use soaked flour … I’ll work on it)
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (you don’t need to use heavy cream … but I love the richness it adds to the béchamel sauce)
  • 3 ½ cups grated cheese (1 part Asiago, 1 part Gruyere, 2 parts Cheddar)
  • Sea Salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (we use Sourdough)
  • 1 Tbls. chopped fresh Thyme (or Rosemary or Sage or Marjoram or any other herb you enjoy)

TOOLS:

  • 2 ¾ quart casserole dish
  • small saucepan (for milk)
  • large saucepan (for pasta and cauliflower)
  • strainer (for pasta and cauliflower)
  • small bowl (for breadcrumb mixture)

Cook the pasta.

Steam the cauliflower and set aside to cool.  (To steam the cauliflower: put about an inch of water in your saucepan, add the cauliflower, bring water to a boil.  Stir and steam for a few minutes until the cauliflower is easy to pierce with a fork.  Strain and set aside.  I don’t add salt to the cauliflower at this point because there’s enough flavor in the mac and cheese and béchamel sauce that it just doesn’t need the extra here)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On low-medium, heat the milk and heavy cream in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in your casserole dish (be sure to sue potholders!)  Slowly whisk in the flour for 1-2 minutes.  It will be a luscious creamy color, and you’ll have cooked out the “raw” flavor of the flour.

Keep whisking as you add the hot milk and bring to a boil.  It’s going to get nice and thick and smooth.  Remove your casserole from the heat (again USE POTHOLDERS!  That dish is HOT!)

Stir in the nutmeg.

Fold in your cheese.

Then the pasta.

Then the cauliflower.

Add a pinch of sea salt if you think you need it (If I use salted butter, I skip this step.  If I use unsalted butter, I add about 1 ½ tsp. of sea salt)

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and the top is nice and evenly browned.

Hmmmmm … I need to check if there are leftovers.

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