Cauliflower and pancetta macaroni cheese

An amalgam of two comfort food classics. The pasta gives it the heft to serve as a main course, with just a green salad on the side.

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 70 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Serves: 4


• 1 cauliflower, cut into florets, plus any pale inner leaves
• 150g macaroni
• 150g diced pancetta
• 3 tbsp unsalted butter
• 4 tbsp plain flour
• 600ml whole milk
• 1 bay leaf
• 50g parmigiano reggiano, grated
• 100g mature cheddar, grated
• ¼ fresh nutmeg, grated
• 1 tbsp dijon mustard
• good pinch cayenne pepper
• 75ml double cream


1. Cook the cauliflower in boiling, salted water for 6-8 minutes, until just tender. Scoop it out and drain with a slotted spoon; set aside.

2. Put the macaroni in the same water; cook according to pack instructions, until just al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. In the same pan, fry the pancetta for about 7-9 minutes, until crispy. Remove and add to the cauliflower and pasta.

4. Melt the butter in the pan; add the flour. Stir for 1-2 minutes, until it starts to bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk until it forms a smooth sauce. Add the bay leaf; simmer over the lowest heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, until thick and smooth.

5. Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6. Mix together the cheeses and stir all but a couple of handfuls into the white sauce. Add the nutmeg, then add the mustard, cayenne pepper and cream; season generously. Stir in the cauliflower, pasta and pancetta. Taste and add more seasoning and nutmeg, if needed. Pile into a gratin dish (about 1.5-2 litres in volume) and scatter with the reserved cheese. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until bubbling and tinged with gold.