This Cauliflower Sauce Mac and Cheese is a lightened-up version of macaroni and cheese, with more nutrients and all of the cheesy, gooey flavor you love. Crispy, salty pancetta and peas finish this comforting baked dish.
Cauliflower Sauce Mac and Cheese with Crispy Pancetta and Peas. I didn’t mean to make this rhyme, I swear.
So, it’s officially fall (!!!). How many Pumpkin Spice Lattes have you ordered so far? Confession time. Don’t hate me, but I do not care for the Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. At all. For some odd reason, the drink tastes rancid to me. Every single time (and I’ve tried it many times, thinking it would be different). There must be some weird aversion that I have to it, because I know everyone else in the world loves it. Such a bummer, because I love all things pumpkin. And all things spice. And all things latte! But, silver lining, I am so happy they now offer almond milk.
But, anyway. Sorry for that little tangent there. Know what I don’t have an aversion to? Mac and cheese!
I made this Cauliflower Sauce Mac and Cheese last week, and it is crazy good. I love making cheesy cauliflower sauce. It keeps the sauce rich, thick, and creamy, without needing to add tons of cream or milk. It also adds way more nutrients to any dish, which is always a good thing. Cauliflower is an awesome source of C, K, and B vitamins. It also has a hearty dose of fiber, folate, omega-3’s, and biotin. I heart cauliflower.
I feel like I’ve had quite the Mac and Cheese week. First, this cauliflower sauce mac and cheese. Then, I had a side dish of it at Screen Door, one of my favorite restaurants ever. And the other day we were served some pretty epic mac and cheese on the set of Portlandia. (I’ve worked as a background actor for the TV show for the past 3 years.) Holy cow. I did not intend to eat mac and cheese 3x in one week. But it was pretty amazing, I’m not gonna lie. Andddd now, for the detox!
But at least this mac and cheese is a little lighter, thanks to the hearty cauliflower sauce. The crispy pancetta (Italian bacon) adds a ton of flavor to the dish. A little goes a long way! Plus, some garlic, shallot, spices, and fresh parsley to cut the richness. Oh, and plenty of peas. My husband is kind of obsessed with peas. It’s a weird thing to be obsessed with, yes. He could eat a huge bowl of just peas for dinner and be okay with only that. I love peas, don’t get me wrong (especially fresh English peas in the summer), but you won’t see me eat a 1 pound bowl of it like a weirdo (just kidding babe, love ya!). However, they’re amazing in this dish and between them and the cauliflower sauce, it’s a great way to sneak in those vegetables. (Lookin’ at you, picky kids!)
Here are some things you may need or want for this recipe:
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Have you guys ever tried cauliflower sauce before? Let me know in the comments! I hope that you enjoy this Cauliflower Sauce Mac and Cheese with Crispy Pancetta + Peas!
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 1 cup 2% milk (or more if needed)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Heavy pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt + pepper, to taste
- 1 pound whole wheat fusilli pasta
- 4 ounces cubed pancetta
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 heaping cup frozen peas
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¾ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chop cauliflower and cook in salted, boiling water until fork-tender. Drain.
- In a blender, blend the cooked cauliflower with 1 cup of 2% milk.
- Pour the cauliflower mixture into a large sauce pan. Stir in the Dijon mustard, sea salt, pepper, and a heavy pinch of nutmeg. Stir in the Parmesan and slowly incorporate the cheddar cheese. Stir until completely melted.
- If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. This will depend on the size of your head of cauliflower. Set the sauce aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a saute pan. Cook the cubed pancetta until crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside. In the pancetta fat, saute the garlic and shallot until softened, but not browned. Add back to the pancetta.
- Cook the frozen peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. (Drain into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, if desired.)
- Combine the pasta, pancetta mixture, and peas. Pour in the sauce and mix well to combine. Gently mix in the fresh parsley. (Remember, all cauliflower are different sizes, so if your sauce is too thick, just add more milk.)
- Pour the pasta into a large baking dish.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and add in the breadcrumbs. Toast slightly until browned. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle the topping evenly over the pasta. Bake the pasta for 15 minutes, or until bubbling and browned.
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