Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Crema

20 05 2012
I made this recently for a large group of people and they truly loved it. The best part was the cauliflower. My guests were simply expecting Mac N Cheese so the cauliflower took them by surprise. This is gourmet deluxe cheesy pasta.

1 1/2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets

4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

7 tbsp butter

3 green onions, sliced

sea salt

2 tbsp flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups grated Fontina cheese

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1 cup Mexican creme or creme fraiche

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 16 oz. box whole wheat penne

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Cook cauliflower florets in salted boiling water until crisp tender. With a large sieve, remove cauliflower from water. Cook the penne in the water until al dente. Transfer to a colander.

Melt 3 tbsp butter in a pan, add cauliflower and sauté until beginning to brown. Add tomatoes and green onions and continue to cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup Fontina cheese and 1 cup Gruyere cheese; whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then crema and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Stir in cauliflower mixture and pasta into sauce.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon in half of pasta mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the grated cheeses. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup grated cheeses. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon butter in small skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat; mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle crumbs over pasta. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pasta uncovered until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.

 


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