Mac & cheese with roasted cauliflower

We’ve been cooking this delightful mac & cheese at home for a couple of years now. We’ve tinkered with it—different cheese mixes, with mustard, without mustard, with veg, without—but this version is our favourite. At a time when comfort feels a little out of reach, this dish comes to the rescue. 
The kale is very optional, but don’t be tempted to leave out the cauliflower. It’s the star ingredient that makes this recipe such a delight. The trick to perfectly roasted cauliflower is to make sure the florets aren’t crowded on the baking tray, and don’t use too much oil. I recommend getting the most flavourful cheddar you can, vintage is best, and I usually avoid the orange-coloured one. The recipe makes six very generous portions, so it’s good for a family meal, it’s also easily halved. For lazy people like my husband and me, there are plenty of leftovers. A simple green salad dressed in wholegrain mustard vinaigrette is all that’s needed on the side of this dish.

Mac & cheese with roasted cauliflower

Makes enough for at least 6 people

70g plain flour
70g unsalted butter
1 litre whole milk
1-2 tsp of Dijon mustard
400g vintage cheddar coarsely grated
500g macaroni

For the cauliflower
A whole cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces and roasted in olive oil and salt for about 20-25 mins at 220°C
Some lightly blanched kale, cooked for 5 minutes in the same pot as the pasta

Preheat the oven to 220°C and grease a large baking dish with butter (I use a glass one with the dimensions 20 x 32 cm).

In a medium sized saucepan, make a roux by melting the butter with the flour on a medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk for 2-3 minutes so the flour cooks. Pour in all of the milk, stirring constantly with the whisk to incorporate the roux. Add a little salt, no more than a quarter teaspoon, as much pepper as you like and the mustard, then mix everything together. Increase the heat to medium and continue to stir occasionally as the sauce starts to thicken. Make sure to heat it slowly and scrape the bottom so there are no lumps in your sauce. When the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in 50% of the grated cheese. Mix until it has totally melted. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper levels to your preference.

Place a large pot of generously salted water on the stove and bring to a vigorous boil. Add the macaroni and mix around to stop it sticking to the bottom. Cook for two minutes less than the time recommended on the package. Drain, and then add back into the pot along with the cauliflower and the kale (if you’re including it). Pour your cheese sauce over the pasta and veg, and mix until everything is evenly coated.
Transfer the whole mixture into your prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheddar over the top, getting right up to the edges. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned to your liking.

This can be kept for several days in the fridge and reheated at 220°C for 15 mins, or until hot in the middle. You can also freeze any leftovers.

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