truffle mac and cheese with cauliflower sauce

I'm a little slow on the uptake. Until this year I didn't own a blender. Then my boyfriend bought himself a vitamix to make protein smoothie shakes or whatever normal people like to eat for breakfast (I've yet to drink a smoothie, either), and then he went on vacation.

And he left me alone with it. 

So of course the first thing I puree in there (I was testing it!) is going to be his 2nd most hated food on the planet, cauliflower, which I then doubled down on by pairing with his 4th most, mushrooms, with an accompaniment of his 3rd-most, truffles, for some added restaurant-caliber umami power.

This is weird for me, because I'm honestly not really into pureeing vegetables and pretending they're not vegetables. Butternut squash mac and cheese has never really been a super exciting proposition to me. It's still squash. You are aggressively reminded with every neon orange bite of its squashiness. I don't believe in hiding vegetables in marinara; tomatoes were just fine before we started adapting them to pull one over on picky children. But having had excellent cauliflower mash (NOT a substitute for mashed potatoes, btw, but something else lovely and fluffy on their own), and knowing the whole thing with pectin and its creaming qualities, I figured blitzing it in our new superpowered blender no one is paying me to shill and thinning it out with some good old conventional dairy would likely produce something veg-heavy (not heavy-heavy) and yet totally edible.

And it was one of the best things. I have ever made. Not just for January fake resolution season, but for life. I will explain why after this disclaimer. 

Disclaimer: this recipe has no grand delusion of itself as a "health" food. It also isn't a great way to get your kids / brassica-hating boyfriend to eat cauliflower (although don't let it stop you from trying — because it won't stop me), because there is definitely still a little of that telltale cauliflavor in there no matter how much cheese you melt into it. And tbh you probably don't want to know the calorie count for it, even though it is mostly vegetables, unless you're ok with being disappointed. 

What it is: a light, fluffy mac with lots of savory cheesiness that on the side happens to have a fuck ton of vitamin C and fiber in it from the cauli, plus vitamin D from the shrooms (it's gloomy out, guys, you need it) and yet is somehow light, fluffy, and doesn't make you feel like you're spooning molten concrete. 

It sounds weird. It is weird. But also not. It's kind of brilliant. And you'll just have to trust me. 

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This technique is loosely modeled after a recipe for Cauliflower Carbonara on Food52. 

RECIPE

Effortful time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2-4

YOU NEED

  • 12 oz. frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1 cup half and half, divided (you can use Califia Farms Unsweetened Better Half as a non-dairy alternative) 
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, cremini or button, quartered
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder (this adds an extra sharpness) 
  • 1 tsp. truffle salt
  • 1 tbsp. truffle butter (or sub regular grass-fed butter)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups of a cheese blend: I used this Italian blend from Whole Foods, featuring unsmoked provolone, fontina, asiago, and parm

MAKE IT

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. 
  2. Steam riced cauliflower, either in a deep covered saute pan with a little water (as I did) or by microwaving in a bowl for 2-3 minutes, until super soft. 
  3. Slice each mushroom into quarters. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss mushrooms with 1 tbsp. olive oil, rosemary, and salt (to taste) until evenly coated.
  4. Roast your shrooms for 20 minutes, until crispy-edged and shrunken. 
  5. Start to boil salted water for pasta. 
  6. Meanwhile, dump all the steamed cauliflower into a blender (a food processor will work, but it won't be as creamy!). Blend, streaming in 1/2 cup of half and half to keep things moving. Stop when the cauliflower looks like a thick cream consistency and no clumps remain.
  7. Back in your cauli-steaming pan, add your newly manifested cauli sauce, mustard powder, and pepper. A handful at a time, start stirring in the cheese, adding the other 1/2 cup half and half slowly to loosen up. Once you're done adding the cheese and h+h, adjust the consistency: add more cheese for a thicker sauce, or more liquid to thin it out. 
  8. Pour in pasta and stir to combine. Mushrooms should be done right about now, so dump those straight from the parchment into your mac and stir to distribute lil mushroom bits into the crevices of your noods.
  9. You can go straight onto eating it from here. But see below...
  10. Set the oven to Broil - HI (hi!). Transfer your mac into a shallow, oven-safe dish and top with another handful of shredded cheese. 
  11. Broil 5 minutes, literally watching it the entire time so it doesn't set itself on fire. (I don't watch my broiler, but idk about yours). Just long enough to crisp the top cheese and add some crunch.
  12. Serve immed. You know what's really good here? A sparkling white. Try it sometime. Try it all.