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Hidden veg mac and cheese

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Ingredients

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1 medium cauliflower
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
600ml oat milk
4 rashers streaky bacon
25g panko breadcrumbs
Garlic granules, to sprinkle
Olive oil spray, for roasting
275g dried macaroni
75g cheddar cheese (30% less fat), grated
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 courgette, peeled and grated
Smoked paprika, for dusting
7g parmesan cheese, finely grated

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Hidden veg mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, but it doesn't have to be unhealthy and heavy. My version is built around a lighter cauliflower cheese sauce, and contains a layer of grated courgette and carrot which is hidden in the centre. The bacon, panko and parmesan crumb adds a flavour bomb on top, but just omit it if you want a meat-free meal.

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    Cuisine:
    • 60 Mins
    • Serves 4
    • Medium

    Ingredients

    Directions

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    1. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower (reserve for later) and break off the florets. Weigh out 500g of cauliflower florets (reserve any extra for another recipe) and finely chop.

    2. Add the cauliflower florets to a large saucepan with the bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with the oat milk. Bring the milk to the boil gently, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.

    3. Meanwhile, lay the bacon out on a lined baking tray and place under a hot grill for 4 minutes on each side or until sizzling and crisp.

    4. On a separate baking tray, spread the panko breadcrumbs out and lightly season with salt, pepper and garlic granules. Spray with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 8-10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Crumble in the crispy bacon and set aside.

    5. Cook the macaroni in a pan of boiling salted water according to pack instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside while you blitz the cauliflower mixture (don’t forget to remove the bay leaf) in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste, then return to the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese, spring onions, dried parsley, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Fold the macaroni through the sauce and remove from the heat.

    6. Squeeze out any excess water from the grated courgettes and add to a bowl with the grated carrot. Mix well and set aside.

    7. To assemble the pasta bake, pour half the macaroni cheese into a suitably-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the grated courgette and carrot, then cover with the remaining macaroni and cheese and a good dusting of smoked paprika.

    8. Bake the cauliflower macaroni and cheese in a preheated oven at 200C for 15 minutes, then evenly cover the top with the grated parmesan and the bacon and panko crumb. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling at the sides and the bacon is heated through.

    9. Meanwhile, place the cauliflower leaves on a baking tray and spray with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper and roast for 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve alongside the cauliflower macaroni and cheese with a green salad on the side.

     

    Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

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