When confronted with a head of cauliflower, I typically cut it into florets for either roasting with olive oil or dipping into hummus. Cauliflower has been a staple in my CSA for the past several months, however, and even I, the woman who eats a sandwich for lunch nearly every single day, got a little tired of the cauliflower roasting and dipping. Enter Ellie Krieger’s Skillet Mac & Cheese from Comfort Food Fix. What better way to use up cauliflower than to veggie-fy a typically unhealthy dish with it?
The recipe calls for Ellie’s Light and Crisp Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs, which I successfully made when trying her version of fish sticks and which I had planned to make again for this recipe. But mac & cheese day also turned out to be the day when my husband and I finally sold a car we’d been trying to sell for months, so the homemade bread crumbs never materialized. I substituted store-bought crumbs, which at 1¼ cups made A LOT of topping. Perhaps the store-bought ones were more dense than the homemade ones would have been; I doubt that the recipe really meant for the topping to be so thick.
While thickening the sauce, I worried that it was not thick enough, so I cooked it longer on the stove than the recipe recommends. This I wish I had not done. By the time the mac & cheese finished baking in the oven, the sauce almost seemed to have disappeared. I would have preferred the dish to have been slightly creamier.
I still rated the recipe 4 stars, despite the bread crumbs and sauce issues, as it was very tasty. I especially enjoyed the combination of textures: soft pasta, crunchy topping. Next time, I plan to use fewer bread crumbs in the topping and allow less cooking time for the sauce. With these slight adjustments, Ellie’s Skillet Mac & Cheese just might become my go-to homemade mac & cheese recipe. I would only make this again when expecting company, though, as the leftovers were so-so. The mac & cheese is best when served piping hot from the oven.
Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 22
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 131
Skillet Mac & Cheese
6 ounces (1½ cups) whole grain elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions (about 3 cups)
2 cups 1-inch wide cauliflower florets
1¼ cups Light and Crisp Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups cold 1% low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
¼ cup shredded Gruyère cheese (1 ounce)
2 teaspoons mustard powder
¾ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 3 minutes less than the directions on the box. Drain. Place the cauliflower into a steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water, cover and steam until just tender, 5 minutes. Then, finely chop it.
3. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.
4. In a large saucepan whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer and until mixture thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cheddar cheese, Gruyère, mustard, paprika, ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cayenne. Whisk until the cheeses are melted and mixture is smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the macaroni and cauliflower and stir until well coated.
5. Spray an ovenproof 10-inch high-sided skillet with cooking spray and pour mixture into skillet. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture, place on a baking sheet and bake until top is browned and the cheese is bubbly, 35-40 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1¼ cups). Per serving, 9 PointsPlus.