Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake
Winter is here and so is the desire for comfort food! Try this
healthier casserole version of a Creamy Cauliflower Pasta
Mash it up!
Nope, not potatoes this time! Instead, I am talking about the nutritious and versatile cauliflower! Sneak in this cruciferous vegetable in your next mashed potatoes, fried rice dish, and yes, a casserole! Cauliflower lends not only tons of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamins C and B-6, but also incredible texture. Here are some ways cauliflower acts as an all-star in the kitchen:
- Cauliflower florets pulsed in a food processor into little granules can imitate rice. This gives a starchy fried rice dinner more balance with extra vegetables included. For more on making cauliflower rice, read this article by The Kitchn.
- Are you a “meat and potatoes” fan? Try sneaking in mashed cooked cauliflower with your favorite potato for even more fiber and nutrition.
- Want to cut down on excess saturated fats in your cream sauces? Just as I did for this cauliflower pasta bake, blend in some mashed cauliflower with a splash of either stock or low fat milk to form a thick liquid base.
Recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake…
This dish can be easily modified based on your dietary preferences. If you prefer a gluten-restricted recipe, substitute gluten-free pasta for the regular pasta and gluten-free breadcrumbs for the panko breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs can be homemade using regular or gluten-free bread by toasting in the oven and then pulsing in a food processor.
If you prefer a vegan alternative with no animal products, use dairy-free cheese alternative or sprinkle in some nutritional yeast that has a natural cheesy flavor. The milk used to make the sauce can be dairy-free as well, such as unsweetened soy, almond, or coconut milk.
Are you a big fan of cauliflower? Try my other recipes using cauliflower listed below.
- 1 pound elbow pasta, uncooked
- 1 large head cauliflower, chopped with core removed
- 1-2 leeks halved lengthwise then sliced
- 8 ounces green peas (thawed if frozen)
- Optional: 1/2 cup spinach leaves, chopped (thawed if frozen)
- 1/2-3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (save 1/4 cup for sauce)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup milk of your choice
- Parmesan cheese set aside
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
- In a large pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta (according to package directions). Once cooked al dentre drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Return pasta to the pot and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil on medium high in a large skillet or non-stick pan. Saute the cauliflower florets until lightly browned about 5-7 minutes. Remove half of the cauliflower and set aside.
- Add the garlic to the pan of cauliflower and continue sauteeing for an additional minute. Pour in the milk and simmer until the cauliflower softens with a fork about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the cauliflower and milk mixture until a thick sauce is formed. Pour in 1/4 cup pasta water at a time if you prefer a thinner sauce.
- Toss in the 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Add the peas, spinach, and leeks to the pot of pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to a casserole dish ( I used a 9x9 baking dish).
- Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and top with breadcrumbs.
- Bake in the oven for up to 20 minutes or until the cheese has evenly melted and the breadcrumbs have just started to brown.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional: Sprinkle fresh herbs such as parsley or thyme leaves