Serves a Crowd

Orange Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese

January 20, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Makes 4 main or 6 side servings
Author Notes

Most comfort foods are comforting to our psyches but upsetting to our waistlines. This is my lower-calorie, healthier version of comforting mac 'n cheese made with low-fat milk and vitamin-rich orange cauliflower. On a whim last year, I added some fajita spice to it, and when my husband tasted it, he said, "It may sound weird, but this mac 'n cheese tastes like Doritos." It really does. But the spices are optional. It's creamy and delicious without it as well. —Food Blogga

What You'll Need
  • 1 head orange cauliflower (white can be substituted)
  • 1/2 pound small pasta such as gemelli, elbows, or shells
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat or skim milk, plus 1/2 cup for pureeing cauliflower
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese, plus 1/2 cup for sprinkling on top
  • several shakes of salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fajita or Mexican spices, optional
  • 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Trim cauliflower and break into small florets. Boil until tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain. Place in a blender or processor with 1/2 cup milk and puree until thick and smooth. Set aside.
  3. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
  4. For the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk briskly. Gradually add 2 cups milk, whisking continuously, until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Add the pureed cauliflower, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and toss until well coated. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheddar evenly over the top.
  5. For the buttered breadcrumbs, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toss until coated. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cheddar.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Food Blogga
    Food Blogga
  • MrsWheelbarrow
  • vrunka
  • Kelsey Banfield
    Kelsey Banfield
  • aargersi

12 Reviews

Douglas B. March 14, 2015
the pureed veg (I used broccoli) was genius and makes the texture an absolute delight
jayaymeye October 24, 2013
I made this tonight. It was quite tasty. Definitely not the same, of course, but a nice, hearty mac-and-cheese stand-in. Thanks!
Food B. January 25, 2010
vrunka-As if we need an excuse to eat more mac n' cheese. :)

aargesi-You're so welcome! I feel less guilt this way.

chezsuzanne-I'm happy to hear it. Thanks!
MrsWheelbarrow January 23, 2010
I love the orange cauliflower - it's called Cheddar cauliflower around here. Great recipe!
Food B. January 25, 2010
You know, I just read that the other day, but I've never seen it. Cute name though!
vrunka January 23, 2010
that looks great -- and it's a good excuse to eat more mac and cheese!
Kelsey B. January 21, 2010
Great idea! I'll admit, I have a hard time with cauliflower but I will definitely try this one. It's so nice to have lots of veggies in a casserole - so much healthier. And don't you love the husband comments? I've heard a few like that, too!
Food B. January 25, 2010
The husband comments are the best!
aargersi January 21, 2010
This sounds SO good, and thank you for a lighter healthier version of mac n cheese - swimsuit season is right around the corner!!!
AntoniaJames January 20, 2010
Brilliant! I was just thinking, this morning, about how I'd like to put some of the great baked pasta --mostly, the mac'n'cheese -- recipes that have been posted lately to use with broccoli, and not pasta, as the base ingredient!! Have never seen orange cauliflower before . . . never even heard of it. Lovely!
Food B. January 25, 2010
Then you've got to try it! It's so cheerful and tasty.
TheWimpyVegetarian January 20, 2010
This looks fabulous!! I've got to make this. Right. Now.