Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Make Rachael Ray's cheesy baked macaroni and cheese with cauliflower for Meatless Monday.
By: Michelle Buffardi
cauliflower mac and cheese

The rules for Meatless Monday are pretty simple: Skip meat, just for Monday. Taking a little time away from meaty meals is good for you, and the environment, too. Technically, your meatless meal doesn't have to include vegetables, according to the rules. But it should, if you really want to be healthy.

Rachael Ray's Cauliflower Mac N Cheese is particularly fitting for this early-fall Meatless Monday. It's meat-free, but also comforting and cheesy. And this isn't just plain old mac n' cheese: It's loaded up with cauliflower, which takes on the flavors of the cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses. So you're skipping meat and getting your vegetables (plus your cheese and pasta), too.

Cauliflower Mac N Cheese
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray
Makes 6 servings

1 pound short cut pasta (recommended: macaroni, ziti or penne rigate or, whole wheat or whole grain pasta)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup chicken stock (substitute vegetable broth to go truly meatless)
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
About 2 1/2 cups whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 to 4 sprigs fresh sage leaves, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup sharp white Cheddar cheese
1 cup Gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded Parmigiano cheese
1 small bundle watercress, washed and chopped

Bring water to a boil for pasta. Salt the water and undercook the pasta by 2 minutes, about 5 to 6 minutes.

While the water comes to a boil, in a covered Dutch oven heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Cut the core away from the cauliflower and set the head into the pot and add 1 cup stock, cover and steam 12 to 15 minutes until tender. Remove and separate the cauliflower into florets. Discard water from pot.

Over medium heat in the same pot, melt the butter, then add onions and garlic. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until tender. Add in the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the whole milk and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sage. When thickened, stir in the Dijon mustard and 2/3 of the combined cheeses.

Drain the pasta, add to the cauliflower, stir in the cheese sauce, transfer to baking dish, top with remaining cheese. Cool completely and cover for a make-ahead meal.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.Bake until brown on a baking sheet to catch the bubble-over. The casserole will take 40 to 45 minutes to heat through.Garnish bowls of cauli-mac-n-cheese with chopped spicy watercress. Print and rate this recipe.

More Meatless Monday Recipes:

Did you know that Meatless Monday is a worldwide event? Restauranteurs, chefs, celebrities and food producers are all on board. The good people behind the Meatless Monday movement keep track of them all, and we'll tell you about a new Meatless Monday Mover and Shaker each week. This week: Russell Simmons. The entrepreneur and hip-hop mogul has asked his Twitter followers to join the Meatless Monday movement. So go ahead, follow Russell. And tell him all about the meatless meal you're making for dinner tonight.

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