Comfort foods are comfort foods for a reason. They warm you up, fill you up and make you all sorts of happy at the same time. With the weather getting warmer and the days getting busier, we haven’t been doing a lot of comfort-food making lately, but every once in a while, the tummy wants what the tummy wants. And this week, our tummies yearned for the kind of comfort only macaroni and cheese can provide.
I’ve mentioned this recipe before but didn’t include the recipe, and I figured it’s high time you all share in the undeniable deliciousness that is Real Simple’s macaroni and cheese with cauliflower. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe during the past few years to balance out some of the flavors, and now it’s easily become one of our all-time favorites. I like to think of it as a more grown-up version of macaroni and cheese (though we’ll always have a place in our hearts for the blue-box version). Extra sharp cheddar adds lots of flavor without the need to use gobs and gobs of cheese. The homemade breadcrumbs on top make it feel especially homemade. And the recipe includes an entire head of cauliflower, so it’s healthy to boot.
Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower
Adapted from Real Simple (February 2009)
• 12 to 13.5 ounces whole-wheat pasta (penne, rotini or elbow work well)
• 1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
• 4 slices multigrain, whole wheat or sourdough bread, torn
• ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
• 2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (8 ounces)
• 2/3 cup sour cream
• ¾ cup skim or 1 percent milk
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding the cauliflower during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain, and set aside.
In the meantime, pulse the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add the parsley, two tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pulse to combine.
Return the pasta pot to medium heat (pasta and cauliflower should be in a separate bowl), and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.
Mix in the pasta and cauliflower along with the cheese, sour cream, milk and mustard. Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
What’s your favorite comfort food recipe? Do your fave comfort foods change with the seasons? Any other winning macaroni and cheese recipes out there? Let’s hear it!