Baked cheesy pasta and caramelized cauliflower, yes please

Sometimes recipes speak to me. Usually, they say things like: Drop everything, run to the store, buy these (often expensive and/or fatty) ingredients, and spend hours in the kitchen. Rarely do these recipes feature healthy vegetables.

This week, I was compelled to get in the kitchen… for cauliflower. Caramelized cauliflower, pasta and cheese, to be more accurate, but still. A cruciferous vegetable.

I saw this “Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno” recipe in the New York Times cooking section. With one glance, I knew I’d found dinner. Not prep or time intensive, and with a couple small modifications, I was able to throw the dish together without a trip to the grocery store. Oh and it was DELISH. Cheesy, flavorful, slightly crunchy on top, creamy cheesy in the middle, barely recognizable vegetables. Will definitely add to the regular dinner rotation.

Baked Cheesy Pasta and Caramelized Cauliflower
Adapted from Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

1 pound rigatoni or large pasta shape (I used large elbow macaroni)
1 medium cauliflower, about 1.5 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbs chopped sage (No sage in the house; I used poultry seasoning, cayenne, coriander)
1 tsp lemon zest
6-8 ounces coarsely grated fontina or mozzarella
2 ounces finely grated Romano, Pecorino or Parmesan.
1/2 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (I used panko)
Chopped parsley for garnish

1. Cook pasta in well-salted water until al dente/under done
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees
3. Prep cauliflower by cutting it in half top to bottom, removing leaves and core. Cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices, and break into smaller pieces.
4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute cauliflower slices in a single layer. Brown cauliflower for two minutes a side, in batches if necessary.
5. Transfer cooked cauliflower to a large mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, sage (or spices), and lemon zest. Stir to coat.
6. Add pasta and fontina/mozzarella to bowl and toss.
7. Transfer mixture to oiled baking dish. Top with Romano/Pecorino/Parmesan, then bread crumbs. Either drizzle olive oil or spray with Pam.
8. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until the top is golden.
9. Sprinkle with parsley.
10. Enjoy!

– Next time, I will probably bake the cauliflower instead of saute to save steps and cook all the cauliflower at once
– If sauteeing again, I will brown in steaks and break into smaller pieces after the saute
– Go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a lot to the final dish
– I used a 9×13 pyrex and both the top and bottom had crunchiness. Next time, I’ll try using a deeper dish so there’s more creaminess in the middle.
– Don’t skip the lemon!
– Could easily add grilled chicken for a heartier main dish


NaBloPoMo May 2015
May 1– To selfie or not to selfie
May 2- Helping things grow
May 3- All the feels
May 4- When your imagination wears you out
May 5- ‘How Porcupines Make Love’: Because, why not?
May 6- A man who makes me laugh
May 7- That elusive quality of nature
May 8- Sky Ops Surprise: That one time I was an under-cover agent
May 9- Family, love and light
May 10- A Mother’s Day trio
May 11- Spring in full burst
May 12- Fixing my tomato mistakes
May 13- Flowers in a drought

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