Veggie Mac & Cheese

January 19, 2016(updated on October 18, 2023)
veggie mac and cheese

When I posted my meal plan last week, several of you spotted the veggie mac and cheese on the schedule and politely requested the recipe. As this is a crowd pleaser of a dish, I am happy to deliver (even if the picture isn’t my best work).

Know that this is one of those things that I never make exactly the same way twice. Instead, I work with a basic framework and wing the details. The batch I made last week used a full head of cauliflower, a giant bundle of curly kale, one onion, half a pound of pasta, and a cheese sauce made from butter, flour, milk, some of the pasta cooking water, and 8 ounces of grated cheese (half delicious Kerrygold and half the remaining bit of a block of yellow Costco cheddar).

Other times, I’ve made it with leeks, broccoli, and peas. Garlic, broccoli rabe, and mushrooms is another nice combination. Chopped ham or chunks of smoked turkey go in nicely if you’ve serving a meat loving crowd. It’s flexible, passes muster with many children, and reheats nicely.

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Veggie Mac & Cheese


  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta
  • 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion minced
  • 1 bunch kale washed, steamed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups pasta and cauliflower cooking water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 ounces shredded cheese
  • salt pepper, and nutmeg for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or parmesan cheese to top optional, but delicious


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it boils, salt the water well and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta has just five minutes left, add the cauliflower florets. Cook until both the pasta and the cauliflower are tender. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of cooking water and then drain. Return to pot.
  • While the pasta and cauliflower are boiling away, heat the olive oil in a saute pan and cook the onion and kale until soft.
  • To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Once it melts, add the flour and stir with a whisk to combine. Cook until the flour looks a bit golden. Stream in the pasta cooking water and the milk, whisking as you go. As the liquid approaches a simmer, it should thicken. Stir in the grated cheese. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and a little grated nutmeg.
  • Add the onions, kale, and cheese sauce to the pot with the pasta and cauliflower. Stir to combine.
  • Turn the cheesy mess into a large casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs or parmesan cheese, if you’re using.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F until the sauce bubbles and the top browns.

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6 thoughts on "Veggie Mac & Cheese"

  • I’ve done almost the exact same recipe. I make a white sauce and add cheese. I use whatever veggies look good at the store and then freeze it in single serving containers to take to work.

  • This also works really well with frozen cauliflower and/or broccoli florets. I use a pound bag (omitting the kale–use a little less if you use the kale) and throw them in the last few minutes of cooking the pasta since they are already par-cooked and will go to mush when baked if you boil them the entire time given on the package. It’s awfully handy for when your grocery store has those beat-up-looking heads of cauliflower or when you want to save a bit of time.

  • Love seeing your stove so used! I have a 20″ apt stove and a small apt fridge. It all works fine but have to juggle some to get everything I want to fit in the fridge, not an easy task.

  • brilliant! tonight’s menu was someone else’s mac and cheese with broccoli, but I think I shall flip over to yours (and next time it will include cauliflower!). Thanks!