Cauliflower and Mushroom Mac and Cheese

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 35 min
  • Active: 1 hr 5 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 serving
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3 tablespoons canola oil

2 small shallots, finely diced 

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped to a paste 

1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Mac and Cheese:

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound cavatappi pasta (or other curly pasta)

5 to 6 cups whole milk 

3 tablespoons canola oil 

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering dish

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 

8 ounces fontina cheese, grated

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1/4 cup grated asiago cheese 

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Breadcrumb Topping:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 teaspoons anchovy paste 

1/4 cup Calabrian chiles in oil, patted dry and chopped 

1 clove garlic, finely chopped 

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs 

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

White truffle oil, for drizzling

Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish 


  1. For the mushrooms: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  2. Increase the heat to high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. For the mac and cheese: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Put the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
  6. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof saute pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, cover loosely with foil and cook in the oven until soft.
  7. To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 4 cups of the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and the flour taste has been cooked out, about 7 minutes, adding more milk if the sauce is too thick.
  8. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a blender with 1 cup of the milk and blend until smooth. Add the cauliflower puree to the bechamel and stir until combined. Slowly whisk in the fontina, Monterey Jack, asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano until smooth, adding more hot milk if too thick. Mix in the nutmeg. Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the mushrooms and stir well to combine.
  9. Butter a 10-inch baking dish, transfer the pasta mixture to it and bake until bubbly and the top is lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  10. For the breadcrumb topping: While the mac and cheese is baking, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the chiles and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve the mac and cheese topped with some of the breadcrumbs and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Garnish with parsley leaves.