Mac and cheese and other pasta dishes are a time-honored comfort food tradition, including a medley of rich, melted cheese and creamy sauces combined with al dente macaroni pasta and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs or flavorful seasonings.
Let's be honest: It's not the healthiest meal, but there's no reason you can't indulge in moderation. If you're looking for ways to add a little extra nutritional value to the classic dish, vegetables are a great place to start. Get an anti-inflammatory boost and a dose of vitamins by adding cauliflower to this carbohydrate-rich meal. Indulge in one of these cauliflower mac and cheese and pasta recipes for comfort food with a healthy twist.
The Recipe: The only thing better than a veggie mac and cheese dish is one that you can make in a single pot. This skillet cauliflower mac and cheese is a perfect winter weeknight meal. Caramelize cauliflower in the same skillet you'll prepare your cheesy sauce in, mix with cooked pasta, and bake in the oven.
The Clincher: "One of my favorite parts of this mac and cheese, and what pairs so deliciously with the creaminess of the cheese sauce, macaroni, and the tender cauliflower, are the garlicky breadcrumbs generously sprinkled on top," writes Heidi Larsen of Foodie Crush.
The Recipe: This creamy cauliflower pasta with garlic and roasted tomatoes is a vegan play on cauliflower mac and cheese. You'll get all the creaminess of mac and cheese without the dairy by using a cashew-based sauce. Load up on seasonal veggies with this satisfying meal.
The Clincher: This recipe calls for the freshest of ingredients. "My dad sends big baskets of grape tomatoes over around this time every year, and I always slow-roast them (using this recipe), cover them in oil, and then keep them on hand in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks," writes Laura Wright of The First Mess.
The Recipe: An elevated take on traditional mac and cheese, this cauliflower, cheese, and leek gnocchi gratin is a sophisticated comfort food creation. Think gruyere cheese coating cauliflower and pasta mixed with leeks and breadcrumbs.
The Clincher: "I would serve this as is with just a bitter winter green salad on the side, but it would also be fabulous with slow-roasted lamb and blanched green beans," writes Sarah Tuck of Stuck in the Kitchen.
The Recipe: This is not your typical cauliflower mac and cheese, but it is a creamy pasta dish made with a vegan cauliflower sauce. For a satisfying winter meal with a healthy twist, try coating your choice of pasta with a hearty cauliflower cream sauce made of cauliflower, shallots, garlic, coconut oil, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and just a bit of mustard.
The Clincher: "I will say that it's a wonderful healthy alternative for when you're getting a hankering for something rich and creamy but don't want to compromise your waistline," writes Jenny of Spoon Fork Bacon.
The Recipe: This vegetarian and gluten-free broccoli cauliflower pasta bake is packed with yummy vegetables and healthy proteins to fill you up, but you'll still get to enjoy the familiar combination of baked pasta and cheese. Plus, you can boil your veggies in the same pot as your pasta for a quick cleanup.
The Clincher: "Even though this recipe is vegetarian, you feel like you are eating a hearty protein-filled dish. The mix of anchovies, cauliflower, and broccoli gives you a dense substantial feel," Amy of A Healthy Life for Me writes.