Does it still count as mac and cheese without the macaroni?
Pasta is a staple of multiple meals per week for the average American, and vegetables rank on the opposite end of the spectrum.
It can be like hostage negotiation to get kids to eat their vegetables, on that same continent where over 25% of kids’ daily veggie intake is actually French fries. (Does THAT really count?)
“Just open your mouth, let a bite in!” parents plead. “Try some!”
When I serve this cauliflower mac and cheese the children cheer, “Yay! Cauli-Mac!”
It’s the cheesy, gooey, delicious solution to both an easy grain-free dinner recipe and getting kids to eat their vegetables.
Google Didn’t Have What I was Searching For!
This winter when I Googled “cauliflower mac and cheese” I was hoping for a grain-free recipe with cauliflower in place of the pasta.
I found plenty of recipes, and before I lost patience I viewed dozens that included cauliflower pureed in the sauce or tossed together with the noodles, but not one that had no pasta at all (and most included breadcrumbs on top).
Something tells me there’s an opening in the market for this recipe, which is the veggie-rich, pasta-free version of my mac and cheese from Better Than a Box.
My first attempt turned out soupy, a common problem when including veggies with a sauce in the oven, but I found two different ways to fix that right up for you.
My kids, who don’t eat steamed cauliflower if they can get away with it, go back for thirds and even take it cold in their lunches.
My mother-in-law, who would embrace pasta any day, also gave it her seal of approval.
Believe me when I say that “Cauli Mac” will be a hit in your house too!
Kids who haven’t filled up on pasta will have a much better chance of eating – and enjoying – their veggies at dinner, especially when presented in a familiar way.
And a lotta cheese never hurts the presentation, either.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese RecipePrint
- Steam the cauliflower at least 15 minutes (10 minutes for a half batch), until it’s soft. No al dente here, because you want to be able to squeeze some water out so you don’t have mac and cheese soup.
- Alternate method for those who plan ahead well: Use frozen cauliflower OR just cut and freeze at least one day before the meal. Thaw on the counter for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Tip the cauliflower into a tea towel or cheesecloth and twist the top to squeeze the excess water out of the vegetables. Don’t be afraid to just squish down with all your might; breaking up the cauliflower is no big deal. It won’t turn into a puree or anything. 😉 If no water comes out at all, you could either steam the cauliflower a few more minutes or just keep moving and understand that you’ll have a little water at the bottom of your cauli-mac. (I pressed the water out right in the zippered bag when using the freezer method.)
- Mix the cottage cheese, sour cream, egg and spices right in a 9×13 casserole dish to save dishes. If you’d rather mix quickly, use a deep bowl or even the pot you used to steam the cauliflower. (I like to save on dishes by simply rinsing a pot from steaming veggies and flipping it over on the stove to dry, immediately.)
- Stir in the squeezed cauliflower and shredded cheese. Optionally put some of the cheese right on top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated 350F oven. (Frozen version might need 40 minutes.) Optionally broil a few minutes to brown the top cheese.
Servings: A half batch in an 8×8 dish is a perfect side dish for 4 people, while a 2-cauliflower batch is just right as a main dish. Make it a meal with sliced sausages on top or a pound of cooked ground beef mixed into the casserole.
Frozen or Steamed? The steamed version will be as soft or softer as you allow the steamed veggies to get. In 15 minutes, they are very soft. The frozen veggies remain a bit more “al dente” after baking, not crunchy but reminiscent of a crunch. I liked both, but especially as leftovers I preferred the steamed/softer version.
What if I don’t like cottage cheese? The cottage cheese doesn’t really come through in this dish other than as a “creamy” factor, especially if you bake it longer than half an hour to really let everything melt together.
Read the ingredients on the dairy! Many brands of cottage cheese and sour cream have umpteen ingredients. I recommend Daisy brand (milk, cream, salt, enzymes) or Aldi brand sour cream (I think their cottage cheese has other junk in it). I’m sure there are others, but they’re not always easy to find.
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So Easy to Make!
- Mix in pan
Make Cauli-Mac a Meal
We like to have a super easy meal by grabbing some semi-compromise-but-not-so-bad sausages from Costco (see what else I buy there), slicing and frying them and serving like this:
Cauli Mac is great as a side dish, too – do you think your kiddos would eat vegetables better this way?