I’m never one to shy away from a challenge, particularly a culinary challenge. For that reason, I signed up to participate in the 2015 Blogger Challenge sponsored by Healthy Solutions Spice Blends. I received a complimentary package of their wonderful spice blends to use. I selected the Italian Meatball Blend. All the spices are blended together in the perfect proportion, making my work a whole lot easier! All I need to do is open up their resealable pouch and create! The Italian Meatball blend is a mix of onion, parsley, lemon peel, garlic, salt, paprika, and Italian herbs. What a great addition to any dish.
When I took on this challenge, I knew that I was not going to use the meatball blend to make meatballs. That would be a bit too predictable. I thought about recreating a classic comfort dish, macaroni and cheese, and giving it a healthy, Italian spin. Macaroni and cheese is known for many things but being healthy is not one.
I’ve been on a cauliflower kick of late. I’m telling you, cauliflower is incredibly versatile. In the past I have made a cauliflower “cream” sauce, but I must admit, the family told me it was a bit bland. With spice packet in hand, I set out to replace the bland with bold.
The result? A creamy, delicious macaroni bake with a fraction of the fat of regular mac and cheese. The addition of fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and peas made for not only an Italian inspired color scheme (not intended), but a flavorful punch in every bite.
Maybe you’ll give this recipe a try. Be sure to head over to the Healthy Solution Spice Blends website to check out all of their selections.
Creamy Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Italian Macaroni Bake
1 medium head of fresh cauliflower, broken into florets (about 8 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 package Healthy Solutions Spice Blends: Italian Meatball Blend
1 teaspoon tapioca starch
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
16 oz. elbow pasta, cooked al dente
3/4 cup finely diced sun dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil, drained)
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil, divided
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Over low-medium heat, saute the shallots and olive oil in a skillet for 5-6 minutes. Add in the minced garlic, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Adjust the temperature as needed to prevent burning. Be sure to stir frequently. Set aside.
Cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding any thick stems and leaves. Steam until very fork tender and soft. Place the cauliflower in a food processor or blender. Add in the chicken broth, Greek yogurt, milk, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, tapioca starch, and Italian Meatball Spice Blend. Puree until the sauce is smooth and completely free of lumps.
Place the cooked pasta, sauteed shallots and garlic, sun dried tomatoes, peas, 1/3 cup basil, and the cauliflower sauce into a large bowl. Fold all of the ingredients together. Spread into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and basil. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.
**This recipe can easily be made with gluten free pasta (I did!).