This macaroni cheese is not only healthier thanks to the hidden onion and cauliflower, it’s also more delicious thanks to the natural sweetness of the onions, blended through the bechamel sauce. For an extra sweet onion hit, you can also top your mac cheese with golden onion – one of my all-time faves.
200g cauliflower, cut into florets
180g dried macaroni pasta (wholemeal spelt if available)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, finely diced
30g butter, cut into pieces
3 tbs (40g) plain flour
60g Parmesan cheese, grated
60g vintage cheddar cheese, grated
pinch sea salt, to taste (optional)
pinch ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
Parmesan, grated, to serve (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 220C. Cook the cauliflower in a large saucepan of boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until completely tender (see tips). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling water for 8–10 minutes, or until just tender (see tips). Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until completely softened and lightly golden. Transfer to bowl with cauliflower and set aside.
4. To make bechamel sauce, without cleaning saucepan, add butter and melt over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, whisking, for 4-5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in the cheeses, salt and pepper until cheeses have melted and combined.
5. Place reserved cauliflower and onion and bechamel sauce into a food processor or high-powered blender (or Thermomix) and process until smooth. Alternatively, add cauliflower and onion to bechamel sauce in saucepan and, using a stick blender, process until smooth.
6. Add the sauce to the reserved pasta, stirring to combine. Transfer to a large ovenproof baking dish (or 4 smaller baking dishes). Place onto a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until golden on top. Set aside to cool slightly, then garnish with Parmesan (optional) and golden onion (optional – see Tip) just before serving.
• You can also cook the macaroni pasta and the cauliflower together in the same saucepan – you will just need to separate them after draining.
• If you would like a golden onion garnish (optional), slice one onion, place on a microwave-proof plate and toss through 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Spread out to avoid clumping. Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, stopping to stir every 2 minutes, until golden. Keep a close eye on the onion during cooking to ensure it does not burn.