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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
Makes 4 main or 6 side servings
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
- 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.
- Cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Baked Pasta