This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese contains a whole head of cauliflower blended into the sauce; perfect for getting our kids to eat more vegetables.
I’m don’t really agree with hiding vegetables in our kids’ meals (read more about hidden veggies in this article) but I am a big advocate for adding more of them into dishes. Pureeing vegetables into sauces and meals is a great way to do this. You can then serve the meal with other vegetables on the side for a double veggie hit!
WILL MY CHILD DETECT THE CAULIFLOWER?
- VISUAL – The great thing about adding pureed cauliflower into the cheese sauce is that visually it can go undetected. This is perfect for pickier eaters that may like the flavour of vegetables but struggle with texture.
- TASTE – The cauliflower does alter the taste and if you have a cauliflower hater then I’m guessing they would detect it. I have added a whole cauliflower to this dish so the flavour of cauliflower is quite prominent. If you have a fussy eater you may wish to start with 1/4 head of cauliflower and slowly add more as your child’s’ taste buds adapt.
Remember you don’t need to hide the fact that cauliflower is in the sauce, it is good for kids to see and understand that they can enjoy vegetables prepared in different ways.
CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE COOKING TIPS AND TRICKS
- When making the roux, (mixing the flour with the butter), stir it for 2 minutes before you start adding the milk. This prevents your sauce from having a taste of raw flour.
- Add the milk gradually. Continuous stirring /whisking and adding the milk slowly is the secret to a good sauce.
- The cheese you use can make a big difference to the overall flavour of this dish. I recommend using a strong tasting mature cheddar. This provides the most flavour and you can, therefore, use less of it in the sauce.
- Any good melting cheese will also work (e.g Colby, Tasty, Montery Jack) but seek out the most mature versions so that you don’t have to add so much to get the desired flavour. You can also add a tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan if more flavour is needed
- You want to cook the cauliflower long enough so that it purees smooth. Make sure the cauliflower is very soft before transferring to a blender/food processor. Blend, blend and blend some more until you have a smooth and creamy puree.
- If you do not have a blender or food processor then you can use a stick blender. You may need to add a little milk to help it blend well.
- Once you add the cauliflower puree to the cheese sauce, if you feel it is too thick you can add a little more milk.
This recipe can be easily modified, depending on preference. Why not try:
- Adding some freshly chopped rosemary into the breadcrumbs for a delicious flavour boost.
- Replacing half the cauliflower puree with some pureed butternut squash, zucchini or carrots.
- Blending only half the cauliflower into the sauce and adding the remaining pieces of cauliflower to the pasta.
- Mixing in some visible vegetables, such as peas.
CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE FOR BABIES/ TODDLERS
If your baby has progressed from purees or is doing baby led weaning then this would be suitable to make for your baby. To reduce the sodium level you could make a small portion for your baby and add less cheese. You could also stir in pieces of cauliflower, or other veggies, to add more textures and flavours for your baby to explore.
STORING AND REHEATING CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE
- Making Ahead of Time
If you are making this dish ahead of time, to serve later in the day, cover the dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (do not add the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top at this stage). Preheat oven to 180C / 355F. Cover the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs just before baking and bake for approx 30 minutes. The top should be brown and bubbling and piping hot in the centre.
- Refrigerating Leftovers
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Preheat oven to 180C / 355F. You may wish to add more cheese and breadcrumbs before reheating. Bake until fully reheated, approx 30 minutes (depending on the size of dish/dishes).
Freeze in a covered freezer and oven proof dish (or dishes) for up to 3 months. To reheat, remove from the freezer and place in a preheated oven (175C/ 350F) until fully heated (around 1 hour depending on the size of dish/dishes) It is ready when piping hot and nice and creamy.
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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- blender or food processor
- 1 Small Cauliflower (550g (1.2lb)once trimmed and cut into florets)
- 265g (2 cups/ 9.3 oz) Macaroni Pasta
- 28g (2 tbsp) Butter
- 9g (1 tbsp) Flour
- 250ml (1 cup) Milk
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 145g (1 1/4 cup) Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese
- 25g (1/4 cup) Panko Breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 200c/400f.
- Remove the base and outer leaves from the cauliflower, break into florets and wash.
- Place the florets into a pan of boiling water and boil for approx. 8 mins, until soft.
- Drain the cauliflower and blend in a blender / food processor.
- Cook the macaroni pasta in a saucepan of boiling water, as per pack instructions.
- Meanwhile, make your sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan and add the flour to form a roux, stir continuously for about 2 minutes. Add milk a little at a time, keep stirring/whisking continuously between each pour. Stir out any lumps before adding more milk. Continue adding the milk little by little until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce is thick and glossy.
- Take off the heat and stir in the mustard and one cup (115g) of the cheese (reserving the rest for the topping.)
- Add the cauliflower puree to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick add a little more milk.
- Add the sauce to the drained pasta and mix well. Transfer to one large baking dish (or several small dishes) Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and panko breadcrumbs.
- Bake in the oven, for approx. 20 mins, until the top is golden and bubbly.
- I always use a mature cheddar to make a cheese sauce. I find it produces the best flavour. Any good melting cheese (e.g Colby, Tasty, Monterey Jack) will also work but may not produce the same flavour. Seek out the most mature/sharp versions so that you don’t have to add so much to get the desired flavour.
- If you are making this dish ahead of time, to serve later in the day, cover the dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (do not add the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top at this stage). Cover the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs just before baking and bake for approx 30 minutes. The top should be brown and bubbling and piping hot in the centre.
- If cooking for a baby/ young toddler you can reduce the amount of cheese you add, to lower the sodium levels.