Baked cauliflower pasta

My mom gave me Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton for Christmas. It’s a fun food memoir, recording his adventures in eating with his daughter during her toddler and preschool years. It’s also full of tasty-sounding (and kid-friendly) recipes, most of which I probably won’t be trying for years and years. But one early-January night the siren call of cauliflower combined with the dismal weather and inspired me to make his baked pasta with cauliflower. It’s from the White Foods chapter, I think.

This is a really simple recipe, but a little heavy on the fatty ingredients. I also found that it wasn’t a great re-heater; it’s one of those cheesy dishes that gets pretty greasy when it’s heated back up. Next time I will make a half batch in an 8×8 pan instead of a full batch in the 9×13.

Baked Pasta with Cauliflower
From Hungry Monkey (He says it’s based on a recipe from the fabulous Cucina Simpatica, which is one of those cookbooks I’m always cooking things from and yet don’t own. Must remedy.)

2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded pecorino Romano or Pamesan
1/2 cup shredded low-moisture whole milk mozzarella
2 tablespoons ricotta (I asked at the cheese counter at Whole Foods and they gave me a bit of the bulk stuff that they repackage in back)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 ounces penne or farfalle
1 medium head cauliflower (~1.5 pounds), cut into small florets
4 tablespoons butter
I also added some red pepper flakes; the dish was still a tad bland.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Stir together the cream, cheeses, and salt in a large bowl.

Creamy cauliflower pasta

(Ben did this part)

Creamy cauliflower pasta

Boil the pasta and cauliflower together in salted water for four minutes, and drain.

Creamy cauliflower pasta

Creamy cauliflower pasta

Toss the drained pasta and cauliflower into the bowl with the cream and cheeses. Combine well. Transfer into a 9×13 baking dish and dot the butter over the top (also some cheese, if you’re me).

Creamy cauliflower pasta

Bake 10-12 minutes (he actually recommends using 4 small dishes for individual servings; I used a big one and baked about 15 minutes, I think), or until some of the pasta is well-browned and crunchy. Serve immediately.

Creamy cauliflower pasta

It was crucially important to serve a sharply-dressed (as in tangy, not natty) salad on the side, since the pasta was so creamy and rich.

Creamy cauliflower pasta

I really did enjoy this, but I want to play around with the technique. I think I could reduce the amount of cream, maybe subbing in some whole milk? It’s essentially absorption pasta cooked in the oven with a brief par-boil to get it going. Adding sausage and kale would be terrific, too.

5 thoughts on “Baked cauliflower pasta”

  1. Oh, if only M were into pastas and comfort food. This looks amazing. I guess one could probably make it on a small scale and maybe add a bit of turkey or something for lunch? Another addition that could be deadly (in my mind) is a dash of truffle oil. Holy yum, Kate! Can’t wait to try it. 🙂

  2. There’s a no fail Cauliflower Gratin recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine (an old issue) with good instructions on how to properly cook cauliflower. I don’t think the recipe is in the big cookbook. It re-heats well and there’s a variation using Gruyere and one with ham and cheddar. I love the pasta idea tho.

  3. The image of a sharply dressed (as in natty) salad is now stuck in my mind. 😉

  4. Hi kate,

    Can you post your salad dressing recipe? The salad looks great. I work with Ben he told me to go on the comment section. We all love your blog at work!

  5. Nicole- I make a basic french-style vinaigrette, using dijon mustard to help emulsify it. I never really measure, but I will definitely have Ben take pictures next time and I’ll post it soon! Thanks for reading–poor Ben hasn’t been getting nearly enough at-home meals lately, which also means I haven’t had much to post!

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