I created this dish for two compelling reasons: The first was to use up the various bits and pieces of great (and expensive) cheeses that are inevitably cluttering up my cheese drawer. The other was to create a kid-friendly but still healthy dish for my son, Luke. We devour this as either a simple lunch dish with a tangy salad of bitter greens like dandelion or arugula, or as a side dish at dinner.
The cauliflower adds fiber to the dish and the pumpkin seeds contribute great omega-3s and all kinds of micronutrients. The five different cheeses balance each other in flavor and texture. You have to definitely have melty cheese (such as Gruyère) and mild cheese (I like Taleggio), but then you want pops of sharpness and variety (think feta and Cheddar; of course, being from Vermont, I use Vermont cheddar in almost everything I make). You don’t have to go all-out with five different cheeses. You just want a minimum of three different kinds (melty, mild, and sharp), then maybe experiment with different ratios—it’ll always be delicious!
In a small saucepan,
To make the
Remove the onion from the milk; discard the onion. Whisking the roux, add some milk in a slow, steady stream to make a smooth paste. Raise the heat to medium low and gradually add the remaining milk, still whisking. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a few minutes to fully thicken the roux. Season with nutmeg and cayenne.
While you’re making the roux, bring a large pot of water to a full boil and season with a little sea salt. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until barely tender. (Cook less than
Cut the cauliflower into small florets and thinly sliced the stems.
Combine the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, parsley, thyme, and ground chiles in a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 9 1/2 by 11-inch gratin dish.
Add the Mornay sauce to the pasta and cauliflower and mix well. Spread out in the prepared gratin dish. Sprinkle with the extra Gruyère and the pumpkin seed crust. Bake until browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Let the mac and cheese cool for 5 minutes before serving or there will be some burned tongues to soothe!