This creamy mac and cheese recipe uses our magic cauliflower cream for a lighter, quicker cheese sauce!
Cook the pasta:
- Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente.
- Reserve 1/3 cup of your pasta water (we’ll use some in the sauce later!)
- Drain pasta and set aside. Return pot to stove.
Make the sauce:
- Add cauliflower cream to pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower cream has reached a low simmer and begun to bubble, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add shredded cheese and fresh ground black pepper to cauliflower cream and stir to combine. Continue stirring until cheese has fully melted and you have a smooth, thick sauce.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Sauce should still be relatively thick.
- Add reserved pasta water a splash at a time (about 2 Tablespoons at a time), stirring well between each addition, to lightly thin the sauce and help it coat the pasta. You won’t need all the pasta water! I usually use a little less than 1/4 cup.
- Taste the mac and cheese. Add salt if necessary.
- Top mac and cheese with a bit of fresh ground black pepper and serve immediately.
What is Magic Cauliflower Cream? Cauliflower Cream is our favorite lightened-up substitution for a traditional béchamel sauce (a milk or cream sauce thickened with a flour-and-butter roux). In a nutshell, cook 1 pound of chopped cauliflower with 1 and 1/2 cups of vegetable stock until cauliflower is ultra-soft, then blend well to make a smooth “cream”.
Shred your own cheese if you can! We always recommend you shred your own cheese for mac and cheese - pre-shredded cheeses are often coated with preservatives that prevent them from melting smoothly. Use a good box grater or the shredding disc on a food processor to quickly and easily shred your own cheese at home.
Substitutions and Additions. This mac and cheese is very forgiving - don’t be afraid to doctor it up! Use a mix of different cheeses - we like ultra-sharp cheddar, gruyere, goat cheese, parmesan, smoked gouda, havarti, and fontina. Add vegetables: broccoli, bell peppers, more cauliflower, corn, peas, spinach, tomatoes, arugula, etc. You can add your favorite protein as well: we love this mac with grilled chicken, andouille or chorizo sausage, bacon or pancetta, ham, or BBQ pulled pork. You can also add seasonings - we like Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper or paprika, mustard powder, and fresh or dried herbs. For more ideas, make sure to check out Mac and Cheese 101!
If you would prefer not to use reserved pasta water (to avoid the salt), add an extra 1/3 cup of cauliflower cream to your sauce or use stock or milk in place of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce out. Just make sure to taste and season the mac and cheese before serving!
Sauce not smooth enough? This can happen for a variety of reasons - if the cauliflower cream wasn’t blended well to begin with, or if the cheese just doesn’t want to melt, you can end up with a less-than-smooth sauce. But not to worry - just zap that sauce for a few seconds with an immersion blender to smooth it out!
To lighten this recipe up even more, you can swap 1/2 pound of roasted cauliflower florets for half of the pasta, or nix the noodles entirely and use a pound of roasted cauliflower florets instead! This cauliflower cheese sauce is great with roasted cauliflower (it’s also amazing on roasted broccoli!) and swapping veggies for the pasta is an easy healthy option.
Keywords: macaroni, healthy, cauliflower