Caprese Cauliflower Casserole. Can you say that 5 times fast? No? Me neither. Good news is this is a whole lot easier to make than it is to say. In this dish, roasted cauliflower stays (miraculously) non-mushy, but gets seriously dressed up with the likes of a flavorful tomato sauce, plenty of cheese and fresh basil. I bet you could even get a non cauliflower-lover to dig into this. I found it resembled a baked pasta dish more than anything else (and incidentally, it would be great on top of pasta, or maybe even with tortellini baked-in. yes, please do that.).
I mentioned in my last post that I signed up to receive weekly boxes of vegetables from a local farm through a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. I’ve been telling just about everyone I know about it, because it’s been such a fun experience, and also an incredibly nerdy way to feel like I’m investing in my community. The whole idea is that you invest in their farm (i.e. pay the farm up front), and they give you a share of their dividends (i.e. vegetables!), which helps them work towards financial stability. How cool is that? Every week, we get a delivery of farm-fresh vegetables that, so far, have been incredible. In the box, we’ve had cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale, collards, swiss chard, fennel, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and even acorn squash this week! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the fall brings, but I’m loving that the tomatoes are still coming in October (and seriously, they’re the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten).
I promise I’ll stop waxing on about my veggie box soon, but it’s been so much fun to try out new things (I’m learning a lot about how to cook bok choy, as that’s been in the box every week), and it’s making me learn to be even more creative with my meal-prepping to make sure everything gets used up. Last week, I made this cauliflower dish, broccoli and sweet potato miso bowls, and bok choy fried rice. I’ve also made more collard wraps for lunch (like these), and plenty of kale salads. My friend and I (we’re splitting the share) even had a fennel-themed dinner last week with caramelized onion and fennel pizza and a fennel, citrus and avocado salad. Thank goodness for friends who also appreciate good veggies!
So, now that you’ve learned how I ended up with cauliflower in my fridge last week, let’s talk a bit more about this casserole. I found the recipe through the blog The Iron You, but made a couple tweaks to make it a little adaptable to what I had in my fridge.
First, the recipe calls for an entire head of cauliflower, but I only had a half, so I just used that, didn’t change anything else, and it turned out beautifully! There was plenty of sauce this way, which I enjoyed. Like I mentioned before, if you wanted to add in cooked tortellini or pasta to the casserole before baking, I think that’d be a delicious way to make this a little more hearty. If you’re using the whole head of cauliflower and want to add some sort of pasta, I’d recommend adding at least 1/2 cup more tomato sauce.
Second, the original recipe called for 1/3 cup of heavy cream. I didn’t want to buy heavy cream just for this, so used a combination of cottage cheese and cashew milk (both of which are always in my fridge to make these). I didn’t miss the cream at all, but you should feel free to use whatever works for you. If you’re concerned about the texture of the cottage cheese (I didn’t notice it at all), make sure you buy a small-curd variety, and you could even give it a quick puree with the milk in a blender first.
The remaining ingredients are fairly straightforward: tomato sauce and paste, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and finally fresh tomatoes and basil. The dish does take a little bit of time since you’ll cook the cauliflower separately and then bake the whole casserole, but the steps are simple and the results are worth it. Roasting the cauliflower first also helps amp up the flavor, all while ensuring that your cauliflower doesn’t turn to mush (and we all know, mushy vegetables = bad is a theme here at Guac for Dinner). Get yourself some cauliflower, roast it up, and you’ll be devouring this deliciously cheesy casserole in no time.
Caprese Cauliflower Casserole
Time: 1 hour, 30 min
Serves: 4 as a main, 6 as a side
Adapted from: Creamy Caprese Cauliflower Casserole
1 medium cauliflower head, washed, trimmed, and cut into florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup cottage cheese (I used a salt-free, 1% variety)*
1/3 cup milk of choice (I used cashew milk – anything unflavored would be fine)*
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch ground black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
A handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes (the cauliflower should look lightly browned). Flip the cauliflower once about halfway through for even browning.
While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the tomato sauce and paste in a large saucepan over low heat. Once lightly simmering, stir in the cottage cheese and milk, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cauliflower. Then, stir in half the mozzarella and half the tomatoes and half the chopped basil.
Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Pour the whole cauliflower mixture into a baking dish, top with remaining cheese and tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes. To finish, turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes (just until the cheese is browned and bubbly – watch it closely!). Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then serve with remaining basil leaves sprinkled on top.
*Feel free to replace these two ingredients with 1/3 cup heavy cream.