There are few things in this world more comforting than a hearty bowl of mac and cheese—but the creamy dish can pack close to 500 calories if it's loaded up with whole milk, butter, and cream. Thanks to Nikki Dinki, co-host of the Cooking Channel series Junk Food Flip (airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET), you can indulge without it weighing heavily on your conscience by swapping out pasta for cauliflower. “Cauliflower is mild and relatively flavorless like pasta, so it's the perfect substitute,” she tells InStyle.
Contrary to what '90s fad diets may have led you to believe, cauliflower is dense in fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, antioxidants, and substantive minerals (which might explain why there's a reported shortage). “When replacing the pasta with cauliflower, it's not just about cutting calories, but giving your body more of what it needs,” Dinki adds. Read on for the recipe, where your 6-year-old self will be delighted to know that she it doesn't skimp on the cheese, either.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Makes 2 servings
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp scallions, whites and light greens
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups skim milk
4 oz cheddar cheese, about 1 cup shredded
2 oz parmesan, about ½ cup shredded
1 tbsp summer savory herb (or fresh thyme), finely chopped
1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
1 small head cauliflower, stem removed and broken into bite size florets
1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs
For the sauce
1. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.
2. Add ½ cup scallions and garlic and cook until tender (3-5 minutes).
3. Whisk in the flour and cook for one additional minute.
4. Add the milk and continue to whisk until everything is well combined.
5. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until the milk has thickened (3-5 minutes).
6. Add the cheddar, parmesan, savory or thyme, and ¼ teaspoon salt then stir until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth texture.
7. Turn the heat down to low and set aside.
For the cauliflower
1. Combine your chopped up cauliflower florets, teaspoon of salt, and 2 cups of water in a large saucepan with a lid over medium heat.
2. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about three minutes, until the cauliflower is semi-tender but not mushy.
3. Drain cauliflower of any remaining water, return the cauliflower to the pot, and toss with the cheese sauce.
4. Portion the cheesy cauliflower into two large oven-safe dishes. Sprinkle the top of each portion with breadcrumbs and bake at 400˚F for about 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Garnish with the remaining scallions and serve!