When my wife made baked cauliflower with cauliflower puree, we were impressed with how creamy the puree was without much fat. My wife suggested making Mac and Cheese with cauliflower puree instead of Bechamel sauce. So, one weekend, we made this new cauliflower puree Mac and cheese. We made two versions. One was topped with a mixture of panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese (see below). It came out nicely browned with a crunchy crust.
Under the crunchy topping was a creamy cheesy sauce clinging to the macaroni.
The second version was topped with grated cheddar cheese.
Again, underneath was the warm, cheesy sauce with macaroni.
Ingredients: (this makes about 8 servings in small ramekins such as the one seen above).
One head of cauliflower, separated into small florets.
Enough milk to cover the florets.
1 tbs unsalted butter
One large Jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, finely chopped (optional)
Cheeses (we used smoked gouda, fresh goat cheese, parmesan and cheddar) grated (#3)
Elbow macaroni, half box, cooked, drained, seasoned with salt, rice vinegar and then coated with olive oil (#5).
Making cauliflower puree is exactly the same as posted before. Briefly; separate a head of cauliflower into florets, cook it in milk until tender with a pat of butter and red pepper flakes. I added one medium onion sautéed (instead of baked), adjusted the amount of milk to attain the right consistency while blending using a immersion mixer (#1). For variation, I added sautéed and finely chopped Jalapeno pepper (seeded and deveined) (#2). For cheeses, I used smoked gouda, fresh goat and parmesan (#3) and mixed into the puree and cooked over the lowest flame until the cheeses incorporated (#4). I added the cooked macaroni (#5) into the cauliflower puree cheese mixture (#6). Then added the cheddar cheese (#7). The reason for adding the cheddar at the last moment is to prevent it from being over cooked and getting grainy in texture. Meanwhile, I mixed panko bread crumbs, grated parmesan and olive oil (#8).
I placed the macaroni mixture in small ramekins (#9 and 10). I topped one with the panko/parmesan mixture (#11) and the other with grated cheddar (#12). Baked in 350F oven for 15 minutes. If the top is not browned enough, place it under the broiler until the top browns nicely.
The end result: Both version were good but the sauce/puree was a bit grainy as compared to the cauliflower puree we made before. We were wondering if this is something to do with the cheeses we used, although we took precaution not to overcook cheddar cheese which get grainy after long cooking. We do not know how much calories/fat we are saving by substituting bechamel with cauliflower puree but certainly this is a good alternative. Compared to bechamel based Mac, this cauliflower puree did not get thick even after baking. We liked the one topped with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.