Pasta the night before a race is a tradition for me. I know it’s a tradition for everyone, but I really look forward to the pasta the evening before a race. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorites. My grandfather made an incredible macaroni and cheese with pounds of cheddar and stewed tomatoes and bread crumbs. He made it most every time we visited. It was incredible, but did I mention the pounds of cheddar? Not super race friendly. I’d seen Mark Bittman’s recipe for cauliflower macaroni and cheese all over the web recently, including on the Runners World site. I’m always a proponent of sneaking extra vegetables into food, so I loved the idea of pureeing the cauliflower into the sauce. Plus, my mom makes a fantastic cheesey, gooey cauliflower cheddar soup that I love, and I was hopeful that this dish would call forth all the best parts of that soup. Cauliflower didn’t seem like quite enough vegetables for dinner though, so I added in some zucchini and kale from our garden as well.
You can find the original recipe here. Some lucky shopping went into this cooking adventure because Berkeley Bowl had orange cauliflower. They also had neon green and purple cauliflower, so I bet this recipe could be adapted to make a brightly colored, crazy, kid-friendly dish too. I used a mix of gruyere and extra sharp cheddar (about a quarter cup of each).
I used cavatappi (which I love) instead of traditional macaroni, and added shredded zucchini and chopped kale and mixed them all together in a casserole dish.
Thanks to the orange cauliflower, the sauce was pitch perfect Kraft orange.
I covered the pasta and veggies in sauce, and started layering thin slices of zucchini on top of the pasta mixture. Once again I wished for a mandoline but managed to make do with my rudimentary knife skills instead.
Hello, ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness.
I covered the whole casserole dish with zucchini slices, and then poured the rest of the sauce over the top.
I then covered the whole thing with bread crumbs (glad there’s always a use for stale sourdough bread), and 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese)
Then baked the whole thing for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
It was creamy and cheesy and wonderful. The Kraft orange sauce was also pretty cool, and the dish definitely reminded me a lot of the soup my mom makes. I’m not sure you’re going to fool anyone expecting the pounds of cheese version of mac and cheese, but this was a lighter and still perfectly satisfying alternative. Also, my race the following morning went really well, so I think this dish will be making a reappearance!
Do you have a favorite pre-race meal?