Comfort foods: Mac and Cheese

Image description: Large oval pot with pasta shells covered in a roasted cauliflower and melted cheese

Cauliflower and cheese is a classic combination, but I prefer the pasta and cheese to be the star. This cauliflower crust provides a super flavourful contrast to the silky sauce. The extra vegetables are optional!

This recipe serves two people, so you don’t have a huge amount left if you are cooking for one but feel free to double the recipe if you are serving more people. If you have a pot big enough, you can do everything except the pasta/peas in that pot, but if not, feel free to use another pan.


Cauliflower crust:

Olive oil

4 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin/garam masala

¼ or ½ head of cauliflower (depending on size)

Mac and Cheese:

2 tbs flour

2 tbs butter

300ml milk (or milk alternative)

Black pepper

230g pasta

200g cheddar cheese (or more – can never be too cheesy)


1tsp Dijon mustard

Garlic clove

A couple of handfuls of peas

Half a tub of mushrooms, halved

Any other or none of these vegetables

  1. Slice your cauliflower thinly and put some olive oil in the pan, arrange the cauliflower to lay flat in the pan for 5 mins, or until it charrs, then flip so the other side can toast too
  2. Add your spices and toss them around, test the cauliflower for softness with a fork. If it is still tough steam it by adding some water to the pan and covering it with a lid. Once a fork can pierce through it easily, set aside
  3. If you are adding mushrooms, chop them in half and then fry them in some oil and maybe a clove of garlic and then set them aside
  4. In the now-empty pot, make a roux pan – this is what will thicken the sauce: Add the flour, paprika and butter together and stir for a couple of minutes so the flour-y taste goes away, and it has formed a paste. Paprika may seem a bit rogue for a roux but it adds a nice flavour to the sauce
  5. Add the milk bit by bit, each time stirring it with the roux, so they combine and make a sauce
  6. In a separate pot, add the boiled water then the pasta, timing it so the peas can be added towards the end
  7. Once the sauce is silky, add black pepper and the cheese, reserving a handful or two for the top
  8. Add the mustard and some paprika to the sauce, this will add flavour and cut the richness
  9. Once your pasta is done add it to the sauce and use some of the pasta water if the sauce needs to thin out a bit too. If your pot is oven-proof, layer the cauliflower on top, putting the reserved cheese in the crevices. If not transfer first, then layer
  10. Bake it at 260 degrees/ Gas mark 6 for around 15 mins or until the cheese is melty

Photo by the author