Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Pasta Bake with White Cheddar

Have your kids eat veggies the fun way - with cheese!

“We didn’t call it mac and cheese, but when I was a kid my mum would toss veggies and pasta in cheese sauce and bake it until it was bubbling and golden brown. Roasting the vegetables first deepens their flavour and keeps the sauce creamy”. – Curtis Stone

If it’s good enough for Curtis Stone, it’s good enough for us.

PREP 10 Mins COOK 50 Mins SERVES 4

5 tbsps olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
1 head cauliflower (about 1.125kg), cored, cut into large bite-size florets
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
540g (about 8 cups) broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups (about 150g) penne
150g (about 1 cup) beef bacon, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups (150g) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup very coarse fresh multigrain bread crumbs (made in a food processor or blender from 2 slices bread)

  1. Position racks in the top and centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly oil a 2-quart baking dish or 4 individual crocks.
  2. On a large baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tbsps of olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and spread evenly on the baking sheet. On a second baking sheet, repeat with the broccoli florets and 2 more tbsps of the olive oil. Bake for 10 mins. Stir each sheet of vegetables and switch the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom. Bake for about 10 mins more, or until the vegetables are tinged with brown. Set aside. (Leave the oven on).
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, over high heat. Add the penne and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, for about 7 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain the penne.
  4. Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the pancetta is browned and crisp. Add the onions and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until the onions are tender and slightly browned. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture, then stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, or until it is very pale golden brown.
  5. Gradually stir in the milk and cream. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly thickened and has no raw flour taste. Remove from the heat, add the Cheddar cheese, and stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the vegetables and penne to the cheese sauce and fold together. Spread evenly on the baking dish. In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat, then sprinkle over the vegetable mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden. The let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Make-Ahead: The roasted vegetables, cooked pasta, and cheese sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead, cooled, covered separately, and refrigerated.

 

Catch Curtis Stone, host of Top Chef Jr from Tuesdays to Thursdays, 8PM on Lifetime Astro (Astro CH 709).