These days, we’re seeing cauliflower everywhere as a low-carb staple. It’s used as a replacement for potatoes, for rice… even for pizza crust. That may all be well and good, but that’s not what this mac and cheese is about. It’s not “mac” and cheese or mac and “cheeze”; it’s still the unapologetically cheesy, carby goodness that you know and love as mac and cheese. There’s still pasta in there… it just has a little extra flavor bump from some cauliflower. (And, okay, maybe a few extra nutrients too.)
In this recipe, large shells are mixed with tender cauliflower florets in an absurdly creamy cheese sauce that’s highlighted with a little bit of nutmeg and cayenne. You can always leave out the latter, but it doesn’t make the dish spicy, it just gives it an awesome extra flavor component. You can use regular macaroni noodles or penne, but we like shells, particularly for that moment when you come across one that’s facing right side up and cupping the cheese sauce like a generous little vessel of all things delicious. Do you see that one down there in the picture? That’s the noodle everyone wants on their plate.
The cauliflower nestles between the shells, adding a mildly nutty component and a lovely variation in texture, so there’s a little toothsome bite alongside the comforting chewiness of the noodles. We promise, it’s mac and cheese as you know and love it. It’s just… a little bit extra. And there’s nothing wrong with being a little extra now and then.
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