My kids gave me Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Food Revolution cookbook for my birthday this past year. It's got great, quick, nutritious meals suited for the family, so I was looking forward to trying some of the recipes. Well, several months later, I've cooked something from it. My son has actually been asking me to make this recipe. He's a big fan of mac & cheese. And cauliflower too, actually.
I like this recipe because it's one of those pasta dishes that doesn't take much longer than the time it takes for the pasta to cook. I like his technique for making the cheese sauce. I've seen him use this technique on one of his shows and it works really well. His secret weapon here is crème fraiche. Usually, when making mac and cheese, you have to make a roux-based cream sauce and melt the cheese in. Jamie's technique uses crème fraiche as the cream sauce that the cheese gets melted into. I guess it has enough fat to stay together without having any flour in it for the structure. Basically, you put a big bowl on top of the pot that the pasta cooks in with the crème fraiche and all the cheese. It slowly melts as the pasta cooks and then you combine the pasta with the sauce.
We're big fans of cauliflower in our house, so that's another reason that I wanted to try this recipe out first. It's one of the vegetables that I know the kids will eat. Usually, we roast it but it was a great addition to this mac and cheese. It was a big hit, for sure.
My gold standard for mac and cheese is Martha Stewart's version. Jamie's version is not nearly as rich, but that's not a bad thing. Martha's is outstanding but this version is better-suited for a weeknight. I suppose you could bump up the cheese content in this particular recipe to make it richer. I think it was pretty good as-is. The only modifications I made to this recipe was that I sprinkled some more cheddar cheese on top before broiling and I omitted the chopped parsley.
MACARONI AND CAULIFLOWER CHEESE BAKE
From the book
Jamie’s Food Revolution
by Jamie Oliver
You can either serve this macaroni unbaked so it’s loose, gooey, and silky, or bake it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving to give it a crispy, golden topping. You could even try adding a grated hard-boiled egg or cooked prawns, but I like the simple style, as here.
- 1/2 a head of cauliflower
- 8 oz. Cheddar cheese
- 4 oz. Parmesan cheese
- A small bunch of fresh Italian parsley
- Sea salt
- 1 lb. dried macaroni (elbows)
- 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- To prepare your pasta: Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and discard. Slice the end off the cauliflower stalk and cut the head into small florets. Halve the thick stalk lengthways, then slice thinly. Grate the Cheddar and Parmesan into a large heatproof bowl. Finely chop the parsley stalks and leaves.
- To cook your pasta: Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and all your cauliflower and cook according to the macaroni-package instructions. Place the bowl of cheese over the saucepan and add the crème fraîche. Carefully stir every so often until the cheese is smooth and melted. If the water boils up beneath the bowl, just turn the heat down slightly. Add all the chopped parsley to the melted cheese and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Carefully remove the bowl of cheese using a towel or oven gloves and put aside. Drain the macaroni in a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan, pour in the melted cheese, and stir. It should have a lovely, silky consistency, but if it’s too thick for you, add a splash of your cooking water to thin it out a bit.
- At this point you can either serve the macaroni as is, or finish it under the broiler to make it crispy and golden on top. To do this, preheat your broiler to a medium to high heat. Add ⅔ cup of the reserved cooking water to the macaroni, stir in, then transfer to a baking dish. Place under the broiler until golden and bubbling.
- To serve your pasta: Divide the pasta between plates or bowls, or place the baking dish in the middle of the table next to a nice green salad and let everyone help themselves.