So, let's be honest; it may be a bit of a stretch to call this health food. But yesterday it was cold, I was in a crummy mood, and the only thing that sounded good for dinner was something cheesy, carb-y, and comforting. I almost always eat predominantly veggies and very very clean foods so if I want to indulge every once in a while, I don't feel bad about it! I do, however, make sure to pack whatever I'm indulging in with plenty of healthy goodness. For this dish, I kicked up the Vitamin A content by mixing in pumpkin puree and replaced 2/3 of the pasta that would normally be used with the cancer fighting, anti inflammatory, vitamin and mineral rich little wonder vegetable, cauliflower. The result is calcium and fiber rich little slice of heaven that definitely turned my frown upside down! So go ahead, indulge!
CAULIFLOWER MAC & CHEESE WITH PUMPKIN THYME BECHAMEL
1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
1/3 box medium shells
1 shallot, very finely chopped
1 heaping tbsp thyme leaves
4 tbsp butter
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp flour
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 8 oz package fresh mozzarella pearls
1/2 cup very finely grated parmesan (preferably using a microplane)
Nonstick cooking spray
FOR THE DIJON-HERB CRUST:
1/4 cup panko
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp thyme leaves
1tsp dijon mustard
1) In a small bowl, combine all of the dijon-herb crust ingredients, mixing together with a spoon. Set aside.
2) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower, cook for 2 minutes, then drain and quickly rinse with cold water for 60 seconds to stop the cooking. Set aside. In the same pot bring more water to a boil cook the pasta to al dente, according to package direction. Side aside.
3) In a large and NOT nonstick pan over medium-low heat, melt 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and saute until soft and a bit translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and saute 1 minute more. Add the additional 2 tbsp of butter and melt. Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the flour by sprinkling it over the butter slowly until a thick paste forms. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, and simmer until thick, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin until fully incorporated. Remove from heat. To the pumpkin thyme bechamel, add half of the grated cheddar.
4) Preheat the oven to 350. To a large pot, add the pasta and cauliflower, and mix in the pumpkin bechamel, all but 1/4 cup of the remaining cheddar and all of the mozzarella and parmesan. Mix with a wooden spoon until the sauce is coating everything. Coat a 3.5 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Transfer the mixture to the pan, sprinkle with the dijon-herb crust and 1/4 cup cheddar, and bake for 45 minutes, until crust is brown and bubbly and your house smells like heaven :) Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes prior to serving.
Hi. I'm Claudia. I'm a food obsessed, nature loving, fitness fanatic and happy gal living in the Pacific Northwest. I've been eating and cooking healthy foods for most of my life, and I'm so excited to share my passion for it with you!