It was Sunday evening, and my husband turns to me with a huge smile and says, "Can we have mac & cheese for dinner?" The first thought that came to my mind was "but that's so heavy and fatty..." Then I thought "Ooooh I have cauliflower! I don't have macaroni noodles, but I do have veggie penne pasta." So I tell him "How about I make a fake-aroni and cheese dish? I'll make some regular and some with cauliflower?" He nodded and off I went to experiment.
Upon further inspection, I not only didn't have macaroni noodles, I also did not have cheddar cheese. One of the only cheeses in my house? You guessed it; Pepper Jack. Not to fear though, Pepper Jack is my favorite of the cheeses, so my mind started spinning with ideas. Why not play into the spicy nature of the cheese? And hey, I know that you can use cauliflower as a pretty dang good replacement for alfredo sauce, let's utilize that!
Now, I wont lie to you. This is not a Mac and Cheese dupe. It doesn't taste like the blue box you grew up loving, but it is way delicious. There also is not a huge cauliflower taste. In fact, the only reason John even guessed it was in there, was because I kept asking him how it was and staring at him intently. He had no idea!
It really helps if you either have a VitaMix handy, or an immersion blender. You want to blend up that cauliflower super super fine so it becomes a cream. But don't let that discourage you! Stick it in a blender and it should get pretty close!
The spicy cheese melds perfectly with the cauliflower, and creates a creamy-and-stringy-cheesy dish that is literally making my mouth water just writing about it. It's filling and almost nutty, but still is able to be light enough to not feel big and oafish afterwards.
Oh, did I mention you get to top it all off with bacon? Well. You top it all off with bacon. Any questions?
Pepper Jack Cauliflower Pasta
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 onion, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeno
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup half & half
- 12 oz penne pasta
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut florets from cauliflower head and place in a microwavable bowl. Put in microwave for 5 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. While cauliflower is steaming, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta according to directions on the packing, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water when straining.
2. Place all cauliflower in food processor/blender/in bowl with immersion blender along with the milk, onion and jalapeno. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour cauliflower mix into a large skillet over Medium/High heat. Add pepper jack, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and half & half. Stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated.
4. In a large bowl, mix cooked pasta and sauce, adding in half the bacon and a little of the pasta water if the mix is too thick. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray, and place the pasta in the dish. Top with parmesan cheese and the remaining bacon. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
5. ENJOY and post with #perfectleehungry.