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Baked Shells and Cheese with Cauliflower and Ham

Yield 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)
If you have mac and cheese fans, then you'll love this baked version that incorporates cauliflower into the pasta and cheese mixture.


  • 8 cups water
  • 7 cups small cauliflower florets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/3 cups uncooked small seashell pasta
  • 1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup diced cooked extra-lean ham (4 ounces)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted

Nutrition Information

  • calories 309
  • caloriesfromfat 0.0 %
  • fat 9.1 g
  • satfat 4.7 g
  • monofat 2.7 g
  • polyfat 0.5 g
  • protein 20.3 g
  • carbohydrate 36.5 g
  • fiber 3.9 g
  • cholesterol 34 mg
  • iron 1.8 mg
  • sodium 674 mg
  • calcium 345 mg

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.

  2. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan; add cauliflower and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boiling water, and cook 4 minutes or until tender. Remove cauliflower with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, reserving cooking liquid; set cauliflower aside. Bring cooking liquid to a rolling boil. Add pasta, and cook 6 minutes or until al dente; drain and add to cauliflower in bowl.

  3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and milk in a medium saucepan, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in garlic; cook over medium-high heat until thick (about 8 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheeses, mustard, and pepper. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower mixture; add ham, stirring to coat. Spoon cauliflower mixture into a 13 x 9–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

  4. Tear bread slices into quarters. Place bread in food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form to measure 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs with butter; sprinkle evenly over cauliflower mixture. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.


  6. Young Chefs can:

  7. Break cauliflower into small pieces, and place in measuring cups

  8. Tear bread slices into quarters


  10. Older Chefs can:

  11. Dice ham with dinner knife

  12. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture