This is not your average macaroni and cheese. This Roasted Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese with Buffalo Chicken Bites is loaded with veggies and protein, making it not only delicious but nutritious too. Add this recipe to your arsenal for when you’re looking for something comforting but you still want to eat your veggies.
Is there anything more comforting than macaroni and cheese? This has been my ultimate comfort meal since I can remember. I’ve tried many better-for-you macaroni and cheese versions. This one is my newest fave, and it has certainly different from the KD I grew up with.
I’ve been to Nashville, Tennessee twice. On my first trip in 2017, we visited a modern brew-pub type of restaurant called The Stillery. Everything on the menu looked so good, so we ordered a few things to share. Our faves? Macaroni and cheese topped with hot chicken. The hot chicken was no joke. It was nose-running, eyes watering kind of spice. But the macaroni and cheese helped to balance it out. The combo was delicious!
I’m constantly finding ways to ‘healthify’ my favourite comfort foods. This boosted macaroni and cheese recipe is more than just noodles and melted cheese. It’s high in protein from the buffalo chicken bites and loaded with roasted cauliflower, helping to make this dish a balanced meal. Macaroni and cheese, but for adults.
This Roasted Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese recipe serves two. There are two of us in my household, and I find it most difficult to find recipes that serve 1-2, so I’ve been trying to include more meals for two on the blog. However, this recipe can easily be doubled to feed a larger group.
What you’ll need:
For this recipe, you’ll need a sheet pan with parchment paper (parchment paper isn’t required, but it makes for an easier clean up at the end), a small pot, and a small 8×8 casserole dish (larger if you’re doubling the recipe).
You’ll also need a 1-cup measuring cup, measuring spoons (1 Tbsp and ¼ tsp), a sharp knife, and a cutting board.
How to make Roasted Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese:
To make this recipe, cut the chicken breast and cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, and arrange on a sheet pan. Keep the chicken and cauliflower separated on the pan to make it easier to separate after cooking. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. The sheet pan will cook at 425 for 15-20 minutes until chicken pieces are cooked and cauliflower is slightly browned.
Meanwhile, boil your pasta water and cook your pasta in salted water until al dente, according to instructions. Once cooked, strain your pasta reserving a small cup of water. To do this, I place a glass measuring cup in my sink to catch some pasta water before straining the full pot.
Add your pasta back to the same pot it cooked in, then add 3 Tbsp pasta water, cheese, 1 tbsp butter, and mustard. I find mustard adds a delicious background flavour to macaroni and cheese, and I never make a from-scratch mac and cheese without it.
This macaroni and cheese recipe is very simple. It’s mild in flavour, but when paired with the buffalo chicken bites, it provides a delicious cheesy undertone to your meal. I suggest using an old cheddar cheese here, or any cheese with a stronger flavour.
Stir the mixture until cheese and butter have melted. It may seem a bit watery at first, but this will absorb and the starch from the pasta water will help the cheese stick to the noodles. Pour this mixture into your casserole pan. It may not look like much here, but it will fill up once you add your veggies!
Your chicken and cauliflower mixture will finish cooking around the same time. Once cooked, remove the sheet pan and add the cauliflower to the casserole pan. Gently mix until evenly combined. I love using cauliflower in this recipe because it blends in nicely. You’ll hardly notice that you’re eating over two servings of vegetables here because it’s included in the cheesy buffalo goodness.
Top the mixture with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, and broil at 500 for about 6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and bread crumbs are lightly toasted.
Meanwhile, prepare your buffalo sauce by melting the remaining butter in the microwave. Whisk in hot sauce, then coat the chicken pieces using a medium bowl.
Once your casserole is out of the oven, add buffalo chicken bites and serve warm. Enjoy!
Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Buffalo Chicken Bites
This is not your average macaroni and cheese. This boosted mac and cheese is loaded with veggies and protein, making it not only delicious but nutritious too. Add this recipe to your arsenal for when you’re looking for something comforting but you still want to eat your veggies.
2 chicken breasts
½ head small – medium cauliflower
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp hot sauce
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup shredded old cheddar cheese, divided
¾ cup dry macaroni noodles
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp bread crumbs
3 Tbsp pasta water
Preheat oven to 425. Cut chicken into bite-size cubes, lay on one half of a parchment lined sheet pan. Cut cauliflower into small bite sized florets. Lay cauliflower pieces on the other half of the sheet pan.
Drizzle cauliflower and chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for ~15-20 mins, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water according to instructions.
When pasta is cooked, strain (reserving some of the pasta water), then add the noodles back to the pot. Mix noodles with 3 tbsp pasta water, 1 tbsp butter and ½ cup shredded cheese.
Pour pasta mixture into a casserole dish and add roasted cauliflower, gently tossing until evenly mixed. Sprinkle the casserole mixture with the remaining ¼ cup of cheese and bread crumbs. Broil at 500F until cheese has melted and bread crumbs are lightly toasted, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in the microwave and whisk in hot sauce. Pour over cooked cooked chicken pieces, tossing to coat. Top the broiled casserole with buffalo chicken bites and serve.
Keywords: macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese, buffalo chicken, cauliflower, roasted cauliflower
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Hi there! I am a registered dietitian and I 💚 food! I am passionate about making it easier for busy people to eat well by sharing quick and healthy recipes. Healthy cooking at home can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. I love helping people uncomplicate weeknight dinners and reduce stress around meal time, so I’m so glad you’re here!