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Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso

Macaroni and cheese is something that most people in America have grown up eating. It’s popular throughout the country, but here in the South, we have a special place in our hearts for the creamy, delectable dish. We’ve even adopted it as part of two of our regional cuisines – barbecue and soul food. It’s one of the rich, decadent and delicious dishes that Southern cuisine is known for. And we’re all okay with that.

But did you know that macaroni and cheese had much more high brow status at one point in time? It was created back in France about 500 years ago. It actually shows up in a Medieval cookbook – back before modern English. Pretty amazing stuff. I had no idea it was that old. But it wasn’t “upper class” back then. It didn’t really become high fashion until Thomas Jefferson served it at a state dinner back in the late 1700’s. It was around this same time that macaroni and cheese starting becoming more synonymous with the US than Europe. I guess we’ve always co-opted everything, right?

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso
Anyway, it stayed pretty fashionable until the early 1900’s when processed food starting becoming more accessible. At one point in time it was actually served at fancy restaurants. Today, it’s not considered haute cuisine – it’s a more pastoral dish associated with the average working Joe. Kraft really saw to that with their boxed macaroni and cheese mix. I know many people have some pretty strong emotional ties to that boxed macaroni and cheese. I am not one of them (we did not grow up eating that), but that doesn’t mean I’m judging. You know I’m always a proponent of eat what makes you happy.

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso
Today I’d like to bring you a more adult version of the standard macaroni and cheese recipe. This recipe has cauliflower, green peas, tasso, Monterey Jack cheese and white cheddar cheese. Probably not what you grew up eating – ours was never this “fancy” growing up, but it’s definitely something I think most people, especially adults, can rally around. I’ve had this idea swirling in my head for about a year now, but I had to wait for cauliflower to come back into season. Sure, I can get cauliflower year-round, but if it’s not my local farmer’s market, I typically refrain. I love how delicious in-season cauliflower is. YUM!

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso
Back to this recipe – as you might be able to tell from the pictures, it’s hard to see the cauliflower in the dish. This is by design, and the reason it’s as such is because I’ve taken the cauliflower and grated it on a box grater. This is a preparation for cauliflower that keeps increasing in popularity, and I’ve totally jumped on that bandwagon. I love the taste of cauliflower and like how much easier it is to add it to recipes when it’s grated versus cut up into florets. The heartiness of the cauliflower makes it really easy to just grate the whole head.

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso
To close, I’d just like to note that I actually adapted this recipe from a macaroni and cheese recipe that I made a few years ago. (Warning: if you click through the photo is terrible. I used to take really bad photos until I got a real camera and learned how to use the light.) I like this recipe here a lot, but that original macaroni and cheese recipe is still my favorite one. This recipe is great because it introduces additional ingredients and a deeper flavor profile, but sometimes the classic dish is the best. I guess it just depends what you’re in the mood for.

What about you? What’s your favorite way to have macaroni and cheese? Homemade? Store-bought? A combination of the two (boxed Kraft, for example)? Let me know in the comments below. I could talk mac-n-cheese all day. YUM!

Yield: 6 servings

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Cauliflower, Peas and Tasso

This macaroni and cheese recipe incorporates cauliflower, green peas and tasso into a rich and creamy cheddar and monterey jack cheese sauce.


  • 1-16 ounce box macaroni noodles
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup diced tasso (see note after recipe for substitute, if needed)
  • 3 cups grated cauliflower (about 1 small head)
  • 1 cup frozen petit pois peas, defrosted
  • 1-8 ounce block Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1-8 once block white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion tops
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 ºF.
  2. Prepare the noodles according to package directions for al dente doneness.
  3. In a medium-sized soup pot, melt first 6 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Mix in flour with a wire whisk and cook, stirring often for about 3-5 minutes, until roux is golden blonde.
  4. Whisk in the milk and the kosher salt until blended and then bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in cheeses after sauce has thickened. Turn flame off and set aside for now.
  5. Once you’ve got the cream sauce done, start on the rest of the dish. If you’d like, you can also start on Step 6 while the cream sauce is simmering. 
  6. In a large pot, melt the single tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to look translucent, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tasso and the cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes, until the cauliflower has softened a bit and the whole mixture in the pot is warmed through.
  8. Turn off the heat and add the cooked noodles, cheese sauce, peas and green onions to this pot. Stir very well to ensure that everything is fully incorporated.
  9. Grease a large baking dish (something you’d make lasagna in) with non-stick spray and transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture from the pot to the baking dish.
  10. Sprinkle the cup of parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the dish.
  11. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • If needed, you can substitute bacon for the tasso. Use three slices of chopped bacon and use the bacon fat instead of the additional tablespoon of butter to cook the bacon, cauliflower and peas in.
  • Prep time includes the time it takes to get this dish onto the stove. Cook time involves all work that is done on the stovetop and in the oven.

Prep:25 min

Cook:45 min

Total:1 hour 10 min

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