Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post: Macaroni-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichokes

Scripps Networks in Knoxville, TN | Taste As You Go

I'm heading to Knoxville again for a few days for work. As I did for my last trip back in February, I've lined up some fantastic guest bloggers to keep you entertained while I'm gone. Today, Justine Fontinell from Fully Belly Sisters shares her recipe for Macaroni-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichokes. So much more exciting than your regular ol' mac-n-cheese!

Thanks so much for writing, Justine!


Macaroni-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichoke - Photo Courtesy of Julie Fontinell of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

My husband and son don't like cheese. I know, they're freaks, right? Since I'm the only one in the house who eats cheese, I very rarely cook with it. Not that I don't sometimes crave the delicious, creamy stuff... but I don't need to be making big pans of lasagna just for lil' ol' me.

Having friends over for dinner recently when my hubby was away offered the perfect opportunity to get my cheese on! However, that doesn't mean that I went buck wild. As a certified health coach, I help my clients take dishes they love and make them more nutritious. I'm not about using processed, low-fat products. I'm about adding loads of vegetables - and flavor and nutrients! - to everything.

And that's what led me to make this Macaroni-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichokes. By including generous amounts of the veggies, we can "crowd out" a good deal of the high-calorie, high-carb pasta of a traditional recipe. And that means we've got more calories to spend on delectable cheese, as well as the ridiculously easy-to-make creme fraiche that makes this dish so velvety.

Macaroni-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichokes - Serves 4-6


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed, thawed, and drained
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups (about 6 ounces) multi-grain or whole wheat penne, uncooked
1 cup creme fraiche
2/3 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2/3 cup grated fontina
2/3 cup grated or shaved Parmesan, separated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh herbs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the EVOO over medium heat and saute the garlic. Add thawed artichokes for a few minutes, until they show some caramelization. Season with a bit of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using).

Artichokes and Red Pepper Flakes - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Add the cauliflower into the water during the last couple of minutes of cooking. Drain when the pasta is almost al dente.

Pasta in Pyrex - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

In the meantime, put the creme fraiche, cheddar, fontina, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan into a bowl. Stir to combine well.

Shredded Cheese - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

Add the artichokes and the drained pasta and cauliflower to the cheese and cream mixture. This is a good time to taste the mixture and to adjust your seasonings. Add more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if necessary. Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish (I used a lasagna pan). Top with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmesan.

Uncooked Mac-n-Cheese - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

Bake for 25 minutes, then broil for a couple of minutes to brown the top. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn! Let stand for about five minutes. Top with fresh herbs such as chives (my choice), parsley or thyme.

Mac-n-Cauliflower and Chives - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

This is a rich dish, so portion control is important. I served this with an Asparagus Pea Soup as an appetizer and a huge green salad as a side dish. They were the perfect, light complements to a scrumptious, cheesy entree.

Macaroni and Salad - Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters
Photo Courtesy of Full Belly Sisters

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