Green Chili and Cauliflower Mac


We've officially seen snow in Chicago. Time to hibernate. I can think of no better way to being the winter hibernation than with a new macaroni and cheese recipe. Not only did I make enough to get us through about a week of hibernating, but enough to freeze a few small containers. Perfect for the lazy winter day when some serious comfort food is needed!

In my opinion, the perfect mac and cheese is loaded with flavor. That means lots of cheeses, veggies, spices, you name it. This more classic version makes my mouth water, too. Whatever the recipe, they're all delicious. And nutritious...

Green Chili and Cauliflower Mac
makes enough for a party

1 16 oz package dried rigatoni
1 12 oz bag shredded cheese (I used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio)
1 cup crumbled feta
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 medium yellow onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
6 strips bacon (rough chop)
2 4 oz. cans green hatch chilies
1 head cauliflower (cut into 1/2 in. pieces)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp jalapeno or red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
olive oil
s&p

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil, s&p. Transfer to a foil lined baking sheet, and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and let cook for about 10 minutes, until brown. Drain 90% of the fat rendered. Keep bacon in the pot.

Add the butter to the pot. Add onions, jalapeno flakes, cayenne pepper, s&p. Let cook for about 8 minutes, until onion is soft. Add garlic and hatch chilies. Let cook together for 5 minutes. I promise all the peppers don't make it super spicy. Just adds lots of flavor.

Add flour to the onion mixture, and combine until a thick paste has formed. Let it cook for about 3 minutes, but do not let brown or burn. 

Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and 1/2 and 1/2, so that no clumps form. Bring to a simmer and let thicken for 5 minutes. Whisk continually! You don't want any of it to burn to the bottom.

Turn the heat down to very low. Slowly stir in the cheeses. Add some additional s&p at this time. Your mixture shouldn't be too thick at this point, but sticks to the spoon when you pull it out.

While your cheese mixture is cooking, get your pasta water boiling, and cook the noodles 1/2 way through. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water to add to the cheese mixture.

Once you've drained the pasta, added the 1/2 cup water to the cheese mixture, it's time to mix everything up.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cauliflower, rigatoni noodles and cheese mixture. Add a dash of salt and pepper to the mixture. Give it all a good stir so everything is coated in cheesy delight.

Now it's time to bake, hope you left the oven on. Transfer the mac and cheese from the bowl to a large glass baking dish. I also made my own personal pan of mac and cheese in a little baking tin. This would be a fun idea for kids, or portion control! Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and pop into the oven for 15 minutes. 

Crank up the broiler and broil for 5 more minutes. This will give the top a nice crunch. 

I ate through most of my personal pan for dinner (see the damage below), but put a bunch in personal containers for freezing. It's super easy to let thaw, and pop in the microwave.


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