Impossibly Creamy Baked Sausage Mac n Cheese
The creamy cheese sauce on this macaroni & cheese is made with a very surprising ingredient. I was really intrigued the first time I saw it because I just couldn’t quite fathom how it could possibly be creamy. So you know what that means, right? Yep, I stashed the recipe away on my Recipes I Want to Try board until the time was right to make it.
Today I woke up and decided it was time. This cold, gray, wintry-looking day was totally calling for some comfort food. I was determined to find out just how creamy and cheesy this “healthy” mac & cheese really tastes. So with a bit of optimism arguing with the skeptic in my heart, I set out to make it.
You probably guessed it is a vegetable, if you know me at all … I do like my vegies. It’s … um … hey did you notice I threw in some yummy chicken sausage in there? The sausage really hides behind the creamy white cheddar sauce in the photo, but I like the extra bit of protein and meaty flavor that the sausage adds. Must be the German in me … I just love sausage!
What? You want to know the secret ingredient … okay, okay, I’ll tell you. It’s cauliflower, pureed in the blender with some broth to make a wonderfully creamy base for a cheese sauce. I was quite surprised … it really does make for an incredibly (impossibly!) creamy sauce. The skeptic in me has been shushed and the optimistic side of me is glowing. Do you have little internal wars with yourself like that … or is it just me?
- 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 of a large head of cauliflower (about 0.8 lb.), cored and chopped into florets
- 3 baby carrots (or more ... I added these for color, but there really weren't enough there for that)
- 6 oz. macaroni, ziti, penne, bowtie or other pasta of your choice (whole wheat or quinoa pasta is a great idea to further "healthify" this dish ... I just used regular macaroni this time, though)
- 2 chicken sausages, sliced (I used Spinach & Garlic chicken sausages)
- 2 Tablespoons light sour cream
- 1/2 Tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme (just the leaves)
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar & parmesan cheese, mixed (I used Cabot Extra Sharp Vermont White Cheddar)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat the broth with the bay leaf in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes or until it just starts to boil lightly. Set aside to "steep".
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add the cauliflower and carrots and cook until they are very tender, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the vegies from the water and place them in your blender.
- Add the pasta to the hot water and let it cook until tender, then strain out the water.
- While the pasta is cooking, cut up your chicken sausages and remove any casings. Set them aside.
- Then make the cheese sauce: take out the bay leaf from the broth and discard, then pour the broth into the blender with the cauliflower. Add the sour cream, mustard, some freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg and thyme leaves. Blend on high until the mixture is very smooth, then add the cheese and blend a little longer.
- In the pot that you used to cook the pasta, mix the cheese sauce, pasta, and sausage. Taste and add pepper (and/or salt) to taste.
- Spray an oven-proof casserole dish with cooking spray. Dump the cheesy macaroni mixture into the casserole pan and spread it out into an even layer.
- In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup cheese, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle this mixture all over the top of the pasta in the casserole dish.
- Bake at 400 for 15 - 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the breadcrumbs on top are nicely browned. Gobble it up while it's still hot!
RECIPE SOURCE: http://www.sumptuousspoonfuls.com/
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