Baked Cauliflower, Leek and Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese

Total Time:
1 hr 10 min
40 min
5 min
25 min

4 to 6 servings

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (from 1 medium head)
  • 1/2 pound shell pasta (not jumbo)
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Two 8-ounce bags Sargento Fine Cut Shredded Sharp Cheddar (4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook 3 1/2 cups of the cauliflower until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the florets with a slotted spoon, and plunge in the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, strain and reserve.

  • Return the water in the pot to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Strain the pasta, shaking the colander a few times to drain excess water.

  • While the pasta is cooking, heat 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large pot. When the butter foams, add the leeks, mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are lightly browned and the mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Whisk in the half-and-half and bay leaf, and cook, continuing to whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Lower the heat to a simmer, add 2 teaspoons salt and simmer 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, take out the bay leaf and let sit for a minute. Add 3 1/2 cups of the Cheddar, and stir until smooth. Gently fold the cooked cauliflower and pasta into the cheese sauce, and transfer the mixture to the baking dish.

  • Pulse the remaining 1/2 cup cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles couscous. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the microwave, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter, breadcrumbs, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the food processor and pulse until combined. Sprinkle evenly on top of the pasta mixture. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar, and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot.

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