Recently, I read a recipe for a lightened-up mac and cheese, where half of the pasta had been replaced by cauliflower. I was intrigued. I’m not eating a ton of pasta these days, so I figured I’d give it a go using 100 percent cauliflower. And why not try it with my trusty brown-butter pumpkin combo?
My Brown-Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is probably my most-searched recipe. I invented it a whopping five years ago, when I was looking for a way to lighten up some mac and cheese (read: eat mac and cheese more often), and so I added some canned pureed pumpkin to a cheese sauce. The resulting mac was creamy and cheesy, but the addition of pumpkin meant I needed significantly less cheese to make enough sauce to coat my pasta. It also added some much-appreciated fiber, along with its rich, nutty flavor, which gorgeously complemented the cheese.
I started by roasting a whole cauliflower with half an onion. Next, I browned some unsalted butter, just until it got nutty and really good-smelling. I whisked in some pumpkin, milk and sharp cheddar cheese, plus salt, pepper and a touch of nutmeg to make the sauce. Then I stirred the roasted cauliflower right into the pot (all hail the multi-purpose Dutch oven!) and topped the whole thing with a little more cheese. Into the oven it went, and the result was astonishing.
I mean. Oof. Just, wow.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it tasted like mac and cheese, because this dish is delicious and worth making in its own right. That said, if you’re hankering for mac and cheese but, like me, you’re keeping half an eye on your carb intake, this cheesy baked casserole will most definitely conquer that craving.
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 of a 15-ounce can of pureed pumpkin
1 cup plus a few big pinches of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1/2 of an 8-ounce block)
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
parsley, chopped (for optional topping)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Spread the cauliflower and onion on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss well to coat.
Roast the cauliflower and onion for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.
While the cauliflower and onion roast, melt the butter in a large oven-proof pot (a Dutch oven works well) over medium-high heat.
Cook the butter just until it turns brown and gives off a slightly nutty smell.
Add the pumpkin, cheese and milk and whisk well until a creamy sauce forms (it may separate a bit, this is fine).
Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the roasted cauliflower and onion from the oven and leave the oven on.
Add the cauliflower and onion to the sauce the pot.
Stir well to coat.
Top the cauliflower-cheese mixture with the reserved pinches of cheddar.
Bake for 25-27 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top.
Top with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.
BrokeAss Gourmet caters to folks who want to live the high life on the cheap, with delicious recipes that are always under $20. Gabi Moskowitz is the blog’s editor in chief and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious Unexpected Recipes.