3 cups (about 12 ounces) pasta shells or macaroni noodles
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 medium head cauliflower, stem removed and broken into florets
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
2 tsp. mace
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground white pepper
Grated fresh nutmeg (about 6 good scrapes across a Microplane grater)
Sprinkle of paprika and sprinkle of chili powder (if you like spice)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until slightly al dente, about 6 minutes or according to the package directions.
Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the noodles from the pot reserving the water in the pot, and run the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process. Put the noodles in a bowl and then bring the same pot of water to a boil again. Dunk the peas in the pot for 1 to 2 minutes and immediately remove them, using the same method as for the noodles, and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. Add them to the noodles.
Pour out the water until you have just a few inches left in the pot. Place a metal steamer in the pot and make sure the water sits below the steamer. Place the cauliflower florets on the steamer. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until the cauliflower is soft enough to eat, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the heat and place half of it into a blender with 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup warm water. Puree until smooth and set aside in a large bowl. Then repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
Now it's time to make the roux, the secret weapon for all mac 'n' cheese recipes. Dry out your pot and place it on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the butter and once melted, slowly whisk in the flour. Keep whisking until all the flour is added and the mixture is bubbly smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. When the roux turns the color of caramel, add the coconut milk and continue whisking until it thickens, at least 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower puree, mace, garlic powder, and white pepper to the roux. Whisk until everything is combined and the sauce is smooth, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add it to the noodle and pea mixture.
Finally, pour the mac and peas mixture into an oven-proof 3 1⁄2-quart casserole dish. Grate the nutmeg on top and sprinkle with paprika and chili powder, if using. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, and just before you pull it out, turn the broiler to high to crisp the top layer of noodles, 2 to 3 minutes.