Gluten-Free Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese with Pecan Breadcrumbs
Put a nutritious twist on a comforting classic with this crave-worthy mac and cheese featuring a veggie-infused sauce with butternut squash and cauliflower that’s topped with pecan breadcrumbs.
- For the vegetables:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or pecan oil
- 2 cups butternut squash, diced
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- For the pasta:
- 1 16-ounce package of gluten-free pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed (see recipe notes below)
- For the creamy cheese sauce:
- 1 cup lowfat milk
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, about 1/6 cup more for topping
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/6 cup more for topping
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- For the pecan breadcrumbs:
- 1/2 cup raw pecan halves or pecan pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (see recipe notes below)
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (see recipe notes below)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (see recipe notes below)
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butternut squash, cauliflower, sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Pour in vegetable broth and cover the skillet. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Blend cooked butternut squash and cauliflower from above, milk, 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 cup parmesan, and Dijon mustard in a high-speed blender. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Yields about four cups; you may not use all sauce (see recipe note below).
- Place pasta and steamed broccoli in a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of sauce at a time over pasta and broccoli until the pasta is well coated and saucy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour pasta into a baking dish. Top with additional cheddar and parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted.
- While the mac and cheese is baking, make the pecan breadcrumbs: Pulse pecans in a food processor until a sand-like consistency is achieved. Mix in spices and salt.
- Once the mac and cheese is done, sprinkle with pecan breadcrumbs and broil on low for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves 4.
- You can omit the cayenne, chili powder, and garlic powder in the pecan topping if desired.
- The cheese sauce yields 4 cups. Reserve 1 cup (unless you like your mac and cheese very cheesy), and store the leftover in your fridge for up to one week.
- Steam broccoli: Cut broccoli into 2-inch florets. In a steamer insert over a pot of boiling water, steam broccoli, covered, until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.