I am SO excited to share the recipe for this Baked Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Bread Crumbs with you all. It has been a while since I made a version of baked mac & cheese at home, so I figured I was due. It also came highly requested by my husband. Cheese basically runs through his veins at this point, LOL.
If I’m being completely honest, mac & cheese is one of my top five favorite foods. I’m talking Kraft mac & cheese, out of the box, especially shells. I don’t think anyone can deny that that stuff is freaking GOOD. It’s not the healthiest, obviously, but hey – we’re here for a good time, not a long time, right? ; ) At least that’s what Ethan always says…
As much as I love treating myself, I also love playing with recipes to make them a little healthier so I can feel good about eating them and serving them to my family. That’s exactly what I did here!
how I made this baked mac & cheese a little bit healthier
Here are some of the ways I have made this mac & cheese just a little bit more nutritious:
- Whole wheat pasta (if you can find it)
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole wheat breadcrumbs
- Veggies added: onion, garlic, cauliflower, green onions
- Real, sharp cheddar cheese
- You could easily substitute broccoli for the cauliflower if you prefer!
This recipe was inspired by Damn Delicious’ Skinny Cauliflower Mac & Cheese. Also an amazing recipe! She has tons of goodies on her site, so definitely check her out. Another one of our faves of hers is One Pan Mexican Quinoa. The Mexican Quinoa is super good with ground chicken added, too! It makes amazing leftovers for work lunches.
I have made the Damn Delicious version before using low-fat cheese and 2% milk, so it is possible, BUT I will tell you — it is damn good with half and half and full fat cheese. Sometimes you just can’t skimp on the full fat dairy products, peeps. They have lots of nutrition to offer, and they make it super satisfying. But it’s your call!
you can Easily Add Chicken To THis Baked Mac & Cheese
If you want to add chicken breast to this baked mac & cheese, that is definitely an option! Just cut some chicken into thin strips and bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F) while you are cooking your pasta.
Make sure to turn the oven back down to 375 degrees F when the chicken is done. This is what I did with my family since most of them prefer to eat meat, but we do have one vegetarian in our house, and I always like having the option of adding meat or not!
Baked Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- 4 cups rotini pasta whole wheat, if possible
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp ghee or butter
- 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tbsp plain whipped cream cheese
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup 100% whole wheat bread crumbs
- Chopped green onions to garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Within the last 3 minutes of cooking time, add cauliflower florets; drain well.
- Add a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and/or dutch oven (4-5 inches deep; large enough to hold all of the pasta + other ingredients) over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, stir and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Once cooked, transfer onion and garlic to a small bowl and set aside.
- Melt ghee/butter in the same large pan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in half and half, and cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in cream cheese, Dijon and garlic powder until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted, about 1-2 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more half and half as needed; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Stir in cooked pasta and cauliflower; gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese.
- Transfer all ingredients to prepared 9×13 pan. Sprinkle whole wheat bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mac & cheese.
- Place into oven and bake until bubbly, about 12-15 minutes.
- Serve immediately, garnished with chopped green onions, if desired. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of this recipe! Pin this on Pinterest so you remember to come back and make it over and over, and tag me in your creations on Instagram at @wellnessforthewin. That always makes my day! : )