Macaroni and cheese is some of the best comfort food I know, and also one of the dishes I missed the most when I had to cut dairy out of my diet. I’ve tried my hand before at mac and cheese here and here, and I was quite pleased with the results. But I think that today’s recipe, from Williams-Sonoma, probably tops them all. It’s a very grown-up mac and cheese, with browned bits of pancetta and cauliflower in it, and a crispy breadcrumb crust. I am quite sure that Fontina and Gouda cheeses, as listed in the original recipe, make this dish special. But I used a mix of soy cheddar and soy mozzarella, and this dish gets 5 stars.
Cauliflower macaroni and cheese (with my nondairy adaptations)
3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons margarine, melted
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
8 ounces pancetta, diced
1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into 1/2″ florets
3 tablespoons margarine
1/4 cup AP flour
2 tablespoons white wine
3 cups almond milk
2 cups shredded soy mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded soy cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup nondairy creamer
1 pound macaroni, cooked until al dente
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, melted margarine, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crispy, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve the fat in the pot. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, 10 – 12 minutes per batch, adding a little margarine to the pot if needed. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water to the pot and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Add to the bowl with the cauliflower. Wash out the pot.
In the same pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons margarine. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the wine and almond milk and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the cheeses, cayenne, nutmeg, and cream. Stir until melted. Salt and pepper according to taste. Then stir in the pasta, pancetta, and cauliflower. Transfer to a large baking pan or dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and cook until the breadcrumbs are crispy and brown, 4 – 5 minutes. Serves 10 – 12.