We can hardly think of any other dish the brings about so many “oohs” and “ahs” than this epic take on classic macaroni and cheese.
Everyone wants a little more fun in life and this recipe is guaranteed to deliver just that. We are thrilled to bring you the ultimate mac ‘n cheese. The roasted and smokey cauliflower and crispy smoked bacon put it over the top. Let’s do this!
How To Make Mac ‘n Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower and Smoked Bacon
This amazing side dish is not difficult to prepare, and much of it can be made in advance.
You can even prepare the entire dish up to 24 hours in advance. Just wait to put the breadcrumbs on just before baking.
It is truly a spectacular dish that is wonderful next to a majestic centerpiece such as our Standing Prime Rib Roast.
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The Ingredients You Will Need
Quite honestly, just the name of this dish gets us excited.
We’re going with a classic bechamel sauce mixed with gruyere cheese and fontina cheese.
We love using traditional small elbow pasta for our mac ‘n cheese, but you can use whatever size of pasta you like.
Smoked applewood bacon (thick cut) is ideal. And of course, fresh cauliflower is best, but in a pinch, you could go with frozen.
The combination of roasted cauliflower and smoked bacon is an amazing taste sensation and is key to making this dish epic.
Simply cut the cauliflower into florets, toss with a little oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Bake until soft and slightly browned, about 20 minutes at 375°F.
The roasting brings out a slightly nutty taste that matches beautifully with the bacon, bechamel, pasta, and melty cheese.
For the best mac ‘n cheese, you’ll want to use an awesome melting cheese.
We’re using 2 of our favorite types of melting cheese: Gruyere and Fontina, combined with a lush béchamel sauce. It forms the basis for the perfect mac ‘n cheese.
And of course, the crunchy and flavorful breadcrumb topping is pure perfection! Buttery, crunchy, and so delicious. Mmmmm.
When To Serve
This dish is a joy to serve for any occasion. It’s not difficult to prepare and can be made in advance (up to baking) so as part of a busy weeknight meal is no problem.
But because the dish is always such a huge hit with kids and adults alike, it’s especially great when served with your holiday feast.
We just can’t rave about this dish enough. All the components work perfectly together.
Folks, there’s mac ‘n cheese, and then there’s this.
Ready to make the best mac ‘n cheese in the world? Go for it!
And when you do, be sure to take a photo, post it on Instagram, and tag @howtofeedaloon and @skinnerpasta!
Mac and Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower and Smoked Bacon
- 10"x10" or 9"x13" baking dish
- 1 baguette crusts removed
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 6 oz Applewood smoked bacon thick slice
- 1 head cauliflower cut into small florets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- 4 oz Gruyere cheese shredded
- 4 oz Fontina cheese shredded
- 12 oz elbow macaroni cooked according to package instructions
MAKE THE BREADCRUMB TOPPING
- Pulse the bread in a food processor until uniform crumbs appear.
- Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Lightly season with salt. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
ROAST THE CAULIFLOWER AND PREPARE THE BACON
- Preheat oven to 355°F.
- In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with olive oil, ½ tsp salt, ½ pepper, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, and 1 tbsp smoked paprika.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Lower oven temp to 350 F.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet and crisp.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and then coarsely crumble when cool enough to handle. Set aside.
MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
- In a large saucepan/skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes.
- Carefully add in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to fully incorporate. Add the mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Stir often until slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- One handful at a time, add the cheese, stirring to melt as you go.
- Gently fold in the cooked cauliflower and bacon. Stir in the cooked pasta.
FINISH OFF THE MAC AND CHEESE
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.
- Place in oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
POSTUPDATE: This recipe was originally published in November 2017, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe with new tips and photography and a fabulous new video in December 2021!