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Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese ai Quattro Formaggi

Quattro formaggi refers to the famous “four cheeses” of Italian pizza and pasta. While there’s variation in exactly which cheeses to use, most pastas also include milk and flour to create a base of besciamella (white sauce). However, in order to avoid using any carby flour or gluten in this dish, I choose creamy and slightly sweet mascarpone as the first of our four cheeses, layering it with three more, each one a bit more pronounced than the last: fontina, Parmigiano, Gorgonzola. The pepper and nutmeg act as a spice undertone that holds all the flavors together.

Serves 4 to 6

  1. Place an oven rack 6 inches from the top of the broiler, and turn the broiler on high.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into extra small, small, and medium florets, and place them on a foil- lined baking sheet.
  3. With a pastry brush, lightly coat each piece of cauliflower with just a glistening of oil. (So unlike me!) Toss with salt and 40 grinds of the pepper mill.
  4. Place in the oven until the toasty spots are visible in most places, for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. Turn the broiler off and turn the oven to 375°F.
  6. Put the mascarpone, 2⁄3 cup of the fontina, 2⁄3 cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano, 40 grinds of the pepper mill, and the nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a fork. Taste. It should have a kick. If not, add more pepper or nutmeg.
  7. Add the cauliflower to the cheese mixture and gently mix until each floret is covered in the pasty coating. (Don’t worry, it will get velvety and creamy once baked.) Place into a 9 or 10-inch square casserole pan.
  8. Spread the remaining fontina and Parmigiano on the cauliflower. Use your fingers to place small nuggets of the Gorgonzola dolce across the top surface.
  9. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven, top with the basil, and serve.

Note: If you’re grating your own cheese, use the large holes of a box grater for the fontina cheese and a microplane for the Parmigiano Reggiano. If your Parmigiano is already grated, use about 1⁄4 cup less.

Variation for Kids: Gorgonzola dolce might be a little strong for some kids. Try substituting a sharp white cheddar. Paired with the mascarpone and fontina, its strong flavor will be tempered. Kids love it! Also, kids love anything served in a ramekin. So, if your prefer, bake individual portions in ramekins.

Reposted from Elana Horwich’s Meal and a Spiel: How to Be a Badass in the Kitchen