This cold-night staple serves up ample creamy gooeyness, while a stealthy vegetable (puréed cauliflower!) boosts vitamins and fiber.
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for baking dish
- 1 lb. cavatappi or other short pasta
- 1 medium-sized head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz. extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
- 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 tsp. mustard powder
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, and onion. Season with salt. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add 4 cups water and simmer until vegetables are very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid; let cool slightly.
- Combine vegetables, Cheddar, Parmesan, mustard powder, and cayenne in a blender (depending on the size of your blender, you may need to do this in two batches). Purée, adding just enough reserved cooking liquid to get mixture moving, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add sauce to pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Toss together panko, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over pasta. Bake until golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes.
Yield: 10 – 12 servings