There are certain dishes that no matter how many times I make them, I’m always looking for a better recipe. Macaroni and cheese is one of them. You know a good macaroni and cheese when you taste it. For me, it’s rich but not oily, gooey with melted cheese and with no graininess to the sauce. It’s also got a little sharp edge to it. I usually start with a bechamel, but I’ve never been convinced that it’s the perfect sauce base.
I eat a lot of cauliflower and I’m by no means the first to discover that pureed it can stand in for all kinds of creamy sauces. For this recipe I was inspired by two recipes, one
from Mark Bittman and another
from Michelle Obama. Yup. Michelle Obama. It’s a recipe that is floating around the internet but I really couldn’t find very many comments from readers who had tried it, so I just went for it. The whole grain pasta and cauliflower addition make this a healthier recipe than some, but I still wouldn’t call it healthy.
My version of this recipe differs a bit from the Bittman recipe
in that I use more cheese and a bit of milk. It differs from the Obama recipe
in that I use macaroni, not penne and I used a bit less milk. Lots of recipes use different styles of pasta, but there is a reason why this dish is called “macaroni and cheese” it’s because macaroni really is the best shape for it. I also flavored my mac and cheese with dry mustard and roasted Hatch chiles. This year for the first time I used mild chiles. My recommendation? Combine a little bit of hot or medium hot chiles with some mild ones to get plenty of chile flavor and just a hint of heat. This recipe is infinitely adaptable, skip the chiles, add more, or use whatever chiles you like best.
Note: If you prefer a mac and cheese with a baked cheesy or crusty top, feel free to add one! I’m generally too lazy to bother.
Cauliflower Hatch Chile Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 6 – 8
1 pound whole wheat macaroni
1 pound cauliower, about 1/2 large head
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard, or more to taste
1 pound shredded melting cheese (I used a combination of jack and cheddar)
1 1/2 cups diced roasted peeled and seeded Hatch chiles, or more to taste (hot, medium, mild or a combination)
Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente then drain and set aside. In the meantime, boil or steam the cauliflower. When tender transfer the cauliflower to a blender along with the milk and dry mustard and puree.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the cauliflower puree, cheese and chiles and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Taste and add more mustard or chiles if desired. Serve immediately
Disclaimer: My thanks to Mollie Stone’s Markets and Melissa’s produce for giving me a 5 pound carton of roasted chiles. If you live in the Bay Area there’s still several more dates during 2017 to attend a chile roast and stock up.