Bacon-Cauliflower Mac and Cheese


Main dish

Bacon-Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

The bacon and four cheeses make this mac and cheese seriously indulgent, but the cauliflower and whole-wheat pasta make it virtuous. For speed, you can skip the breadcrumb and broiling step, making this an easy stovetop meal. I like elbow pasta for mac and cheese, but substitute whatever you have. Ditto for the selection of cheeses.

Lunch ideas: Use leftover mac and cheese as the filling for a grilled cheese. (It was my son’s idea. It’s a little crazy, but it’s a lot delicious.) Or pack it warm in a thermos and use it as a topping for DIY nachos accompanied by tortilla chips and other toppings. At lunch, spoon the warm mac and cheese onto the chips and top as desired.

1 pound whole-wheat elbow pasta

10 strips bacon, chopped

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

11/2 cups (6 ounces) grated Cheddar cheese

11/2 cups (6 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt

3/4 panko breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Heat the oven to broil.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep oven-safe sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon for 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and sauté until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add the drained pasta to the pan and mix well. Add the milk, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and heat until the milk is hot.

Add the cream cheese, stirring until melted. Sprinkle in the Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan, stirring until melted. Season with salt. Leave the pasta in the pan.

In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, and scatter evenly over the pasta. Broil 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from J.M. Hirsch’s “Beating the Lunch Box Blues” (Atria, $18).

Per serving: 650 calories 48 percent from fat, 34.7 g fat (19 g saturated, 10 g monounsaturated), 102 mg cholesterol, 31.6 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 5.6 g fiber, 743 mg sodium.

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