The Pioneer Woman and had recently watched the Food Network's Super Chef Battle where they made cauliflower cheese. I was motivated to make a combination of mac and cheese with vegetables. Here are the recipes that inspired my dish:
Traditional cauliflower cheese
Pioneer Woman Macaroni & Cheese
PW's Spicy Mac & Cheese
4 cups cooked whole wheat macaroni (1 box)
6 slices of cheese, enough to cover the top while baking
1 sliced leek (about 1 cup)
1 cup diced bell pepper *
1 finely diced jalapeno
1 cup frozen corn
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups chopped cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half
2 cups fat free milk
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
1 egg, beaten **
1 pound mozzarella cheese
Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
* I used a mixture of bell and hot peppers from the garden that I had diced and frozen
** Egg compliments of Brown Chicken.
Prepare Pasta and Vegetables1. Bring water to a boil
2. Add the cauliflower and boil for 5 minutes
3. Add the pasta to the boiling water with cauliflower and cook for 5 more minutes. The pasta should be undercooked and a little hard when you bite into it.
4. In a large pot, add olive oil and sauté garlic and remaining vegetables over medium heat for a couple of minutes, then turn off heat. Scoop cooked vegetables back into another dish to free up the pot. I used my dutch oven to saute the vegetables and put them back into the measuring cup when cooked.
5. Drain the pasta/cauliflower and set aside.
Making the Sauce6. Beat the egg separately in a small bowl
7. In the same large pot, melt the butter then sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat and stir constantly for 5 minutes. The Pioneer Woman Macaroni & Cheese recipe has an excellent step by step process on making the roux needed for the sauce.
8. Pour in half and half, milk, and mustard. Then whisk until smooth.
9. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
10. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together until smooth.
10. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly until smooth.
12. Add the mozzarella cheese and stir to melt.
13. Season with black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and thyme to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon of each.
14. Add the pasta/cauliflower and stir to combine.
15. Pour into a buttered baking dish
16. Place the cheese slices over the top. I used Swiss.
17. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
This was the first time I had made macaroni and cheese from scratch. It was so good that I want to make it again. The spice from the jalapeno and cayenne with just enough to give it flavor without being too hot. I really liked the combination of vegetables, cheese and pasta. Using unsalted butter, mozzarella, and Swiss cheese made the recipe low sodium (which is important at our house).