1 pound whole-wheat elbow pasta
10 strips bacon, chopped
½ medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
½ tablespoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
1½ cups (6 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
1½ cups (6 ounces) grated gruyere cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
Heat the oven to broil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep oven-safe saute pan over medium heat, cook the bacon for 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and saute until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add the drained pasta to the pan and mix well. Add the milk, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and heat until the milk is hot.
Add the cream cheese, stirring until melted. Sprinkle in the cheddar, gruyere and parmesan, stirring until melted. Season with salt. Leave the pasta in the pan.
In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, then scatter evenly over the pasta. Broil for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serves four (with leftovers).
Leftover lunch ideas: Use leftover mac and cheese as the filling for a grilled cheese. It was my son's idea. It's a little crazy, but it's a lot delicious. Or pack it warm in a thermos and use it as a topping for DIY nachos. Just accompany with tortilla chips and other toppings, such as bacon or sausage chunks, salsa and a package of guacamole. At lunch, spoon the warm mac and cheese onto the chips and top as desired.
"Beating the Lunch Box Blues" by J.M. Hirsch (Rachael Ray Books, 2013)