Side dish

Cauliflower and Gruyere macaroni and cheese

Cauliflower and gruyer mac and cheese DSC3837

The other day, my cousin who now lives in New York asked if I was available for a quick lunch. I mentioned I was about to test a recipe for cauliflower and Gruyere macaroni and cheese and offered for him to come join me. “That sounds really good,” he said. “I’d love that!” But when I told him the recipe would take a little over an hour, he realized his didn’t have that much time, so we grabbed a quick burger instead.

The burger was satisfying. But a couple of hours later when I pulled out of the oven a bubbling casserole full of tender cauliflower and pasta smothered in nutty Gruyere and parmesan cheese, I found it hard to stop taking bites of this simple and satisfying dish, even though I’d already had a big lunch.

Now, I have to admit, when I first saw the recipe for the cauliflower and Gruyere gratin, as it’s called in the book Melt by Garrett McCord and Stephanie Stiavetti, I didn’t think too much about it. Melt’s subtitle is The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, and indeed the book is full of recipes for this comfort classic.

Cauliflower and gruyere mac and cheese | Homesick Texan

Yet, at heart, the book is a celebration of cheese, and to showcase a wide range of cheeses the authors have taken liberties with the phrase “macaroni and cheese” and also provided recipes for soups, salads, and even desserts where both cheese and pasta are present. If you love cheese, then it’s definitely a book that you will flip through and keep saying to yourself, “I want to make that!”

As there are so many intriguing recipes in Melt, I was a little surprised that it was the cauliflower macaroni and cheese that kept calling me to the kitchen. Perhaps it’s because cauliflower is in season right now or perhaps it’s because I love Gruyere and am always looking for an excuse to eat it. But no matter, the stomach knows what it wants, so that’s what I decided to make.

It’s an easy recipe that takes little effort, with chopping the cauliflower and grating the cheese the most laborious part of the process. With many macaroni and cheese recipes, there’s a lot of stirring as you make a flour-based sauce, but this recipe is a cinch as the sauce is just heavy cream along with dashes of powdered mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. And after you pour it over the cauliflower and pasta, and slip it into the oven, the hardest part is waiting for the casserole to be done.

Cauliflower and gruyere mac and cheese | Homesick Texan

While macaroni and cheese is always in season, now is the best time for this particular version as cauliflower is at its best in the fall. This makes for a good vegetarian main dish, though it’s also just as welcome as a heartier side dish. And that’s how I plan to serve it—as an offering on the Thanksgiving table—so my family, including my cousin, can enjoy it, too.

Cauliflower and gruyer mac and cheese DSC3837
5 from 1 vote

Cauliflower and Gruyere macaroni and cheese

Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from Melt


  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces elbow pasta
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) Gruyère, shredded
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne, optional
  • 3 ounces (3/4 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the cauliflower in a lightly greased 9×9 baking dish or large cast-iron skillet, and then toss the florets with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven, leaving the cauliflower in the dish.

  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and then boil until the pasta is al dente, or softened but still a little chewy.

  3. Once the pasta is done, drain and rinse the pasta and then pour into to the dish with the cauliflower. Add the shredded Gruyere and then stir to combine the cauliflower, pasta, and Gruyere.

  4. Whisk together the cream, garlic, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour over the pasta and stir until well combined. Evenly sprinkle over the pasta the Parmesan cheese and then bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes so the cream can set and then serve warm.

  1. Garrett

    Yay! So glad you love the book! I'm in Seattle today and it's miserably cold out and I wish I could eat this for lunch. =)

  2. Lisa Fain

    Garrett–Stay warm! And yes, this is perfect cold-weather food.

  3. Mmmm… my wife and I made this recipe earlier this week. This was absolutely delicious!

  4. Lisa Fain

    Robert–Isn't it wonderful?

  5. Michele

    What do you think would happen if you used milk instead of cream – not thick enough? Seems like the cheese might carry it . . . I am just trying to avoid cream dishes but this sounds soooo good!

  6. Lisa Fain

    Michele–It wouldn't work with just milk, you need the fat in the cream to create the sauce. If you want to use milk, you'd need to make a roux with flour and butter to thicken the milk.

  7. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I love everything about this. The cauliflower is awesome in here!

  8. DessertForTwo

    I'm so glad to see you & Garrett are blog buddies! I can't wait to dive into his new book!

  9. Lisa Fain

    Katrina–It really works well with the macaroni and cheese.

  10. Lisa Fain

    DessertForTwo–The book is wonderful–so many creative recipes and good stories, too.

  11. Elizabeth

    Yum. Thanks for an irresistible recipe, Lisa. But I'm trying to lose weight and cut the fat. Any chance half-and-half would work, or evaporated milk?

  12. Lisa Fain

    Elizabeth-I haven't tested it with either so I'm not sure, but I'd probably try the evaporated milk first.

  13. Elizabeth

    Thanks for your suggestion on the evap. milk. I'll give it a go. If it doesn't work, I'm going with the real deal!

  14. Lisa Fain

    Elizabeth–Hope it works! Let us know what happens.

  15. TexasDeb

    We are trying to hold down our carb intake – do you think this recipe would adapt to a double-cauliflower/no pasta version?

  16. Lisa Fain

    TexasDeb–Yes, while I haven't tried it, I think it would work very well with no pasta and the amount of cauliflower doubled.

  17. Whaliln

    I make a lighter version of this all the time-use all cauliflower (steamed), and a white sauce with cheese and nutritional yeast mixed in. Bake in the oven. Delish!

  18. Michele

    Thanks, Lisa, the roux or evaporated milk sound like a good way to go.

  19. Lisa Fain

    Whaliln–That sounds very healthy!

    Michele–You're welcome. Hope it works for you!

  20. ninivepisces

    Had it today, and am totally happy with this. With the measurements its always a challenge for me, and I just judged what was right for us, more cauliflower than pasta and a big chunk of gruyere from the alps… simply great.

  21. TexasDeb

    Update: I made this without pasta (a lower carb version) by prepping the cauliflower as directed, skipping the pasta step and then prepping the sauce as a half-recipe (using an 8x8x2 inch pan). The only problem was with the amount of seasoning for the cauliflower step – it would have been just right IF I'd added pasta (or doubled the amt. of cauliflower) but since I did not it came out a bit salty (though most of my family wouldn't complain). So – if you don't want to use pasta then either double the amount of cauliflower OR cut the amount of salt/pepper in half for the first step of the recipe as well as cutting the sauce ingredients by half. It bakes up beautifully in about 45 minutes.

  22. purplerangerfood

    What other cheeses would work well with this recipe? I love Gruyere (or any Swiss cheese), but I immediately started wondering what blends of cheeses would work in this recipe.

    And while I was at the grocery store, I saw a package of precut broccoli and cauliflower, and I started wondering how well that would work with this recipe — or just substituting broccoli for the cauliflower.

  23. Lisa Fain

    ninivepisces–Glad you liked it!

    TexasDeb–Thanks for the update!

  24. Lisa Fain

    Purpleranger–White cheddar would work. I haven't tried it with broccoli, so I have no idea but I reckon it would be good. If you do, let us know if you liked it.

  25. purplerangerfood

    Oh, I'm going to be trying it. I saw some purple cauliflower at my local Kroger a day or two ago, and it would make a nice color contrast with the broccoli.

    One question, though: How much does one head of cauliflower yield in the way of florets?

    And you might be amused by the Trader Joe's newsletter I just picked up. One of the side dishes they're featuring for Thanksgiving is a cauliflower gratin that sounds very similar to this recipe. They even make the mac & cheese analogy.

  26. What better comfort food exists than mac and cheese? Yet it seems so unhealthy. This recipe helps a lot. You can be comforted and healthy both….

  27. SeattleDee

    I'm skimming a library copy of Melt this week, along with several other cookbooks. It (the book) is every bit as intriguing as you mention, and this cauliflower mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food (with the addition of some poblano and bacon). I'll add Melt to my next Amazon order, and then decide whether to keep or gift it away.

  28. Grandbabycakes

    Gorgeous mac and cheese seriously!

  29. Chumasmom

    Made it this weekend. Loved it, and my husband said the recipe was definitely a keeper.

  30. I made your coconut tres leche cake (from your book) and the chipotle chicken fajitas this past weekend for my housewarming party. They were a huge hit. Now I want to try this recipe because you have NEVER steered me wrong!

  31. this is me

    hey Lisa!

    i'm also a HS Texan living in NYC. i think i'm going to make this as my contribution to our orphan Thanksgiving, but wondering if there's tons of food, which there might be! do you think it would freeze well?

    curious… thank you.

  32. Lisa Fain

    Chumasmom–So pleased you enjoyed it!

  33. Lisa Fain

    Rachel–Thank you! So pleased you're enjoying the boo

  34. Lisa Fain

    Cindy–I think it would freeze just fine. Happy Thanksgiving!

  35. Lisa Fain


    SeattleDee–Hope you enjoy it!


  36. Melissa

    I made this for a very picky family who likes to stick with our traditional Thanksgiving fare, rarely deviating from the norm. They lovesd it (even teh picky Okies and the 2 Canadians). The only variation I made was inadvertent, I bought smoked Gruyere on accident. If possible that may have made it better. The local Walmart only had white cauliflower, but I had mixed vegetable pasta so it added a nice color. Everyone asked for the recipe. It will be added as a new Thanksgiving tradition!

  37. I made this last night, and I only had about 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream on hand. I made up the difference with skim milk/2% Greek yogurt and it came out great! Still rich & not too watery. I'm sure the all-cream version is EXTRA delicious, but for those looking to cut calories above, I just wanted to let you know that it's an option to sub some milk without any problem.

  38. Do you think a squirt of prepared mustard would work in place of ground mustard?

    • Lisa Fain

      Becca–I’d probably just eliminate the powdered mustard–it shouldn’t affect the macaroni and cheese too much.

Leave a Reply to Lisa Fain Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating