Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta is pretty much my childhood in a bowl. We all have that one dish–whether it’s macaroni and cheese, maybe a casserole, something–that our mothers made growing up, and every time we eat it, we are taken back. This is it right here, for me.
Hopefully, my kids will be taken back to their childhood when they eat it as adults, too! I’ve been craving Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta for a while now, and yesterday felt like the perfect day to make it. The snow was coming down in sheets, and seeing how it is now March, well, let’s just say we are all ready for winter to be over here in Washington state. So to cheer up, I fired up the stove and began preparing this wonderfully cheesy, simple dish. And oh my, it did not disappoint!
The simple, garlicky pureed tomatoes compliment the tender cauliflower perfectly, and that cheese! Perfection. I thought about tweaking this recipe a bit; maybe switching out the cheddar cheese for something more elegant, but no, I couldn’t do it. I could not change a thing about this recipe!
The recipe calls for pureed tomatoes, and you can either use canned, or make your own from fresh, as I did for the pasta you see in the pictures. If you happen to have about 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes available, see the notes on how to make fresh tomato puree. It is so simple to make, and since you will already have a pot of water boiling for the pasta, it literally just involves plopping the tomatoes in the pot for 60 seconds before you cook the noodles, slipping the skins off, and running them through the food processor for a bit. Easy-peasy. But canned works just fine, too.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have over the years!
This recipe was adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook, from an early edition that my mother says is no longer in circulation.
Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta
Sauteed cauliflower, garlicky tomato sauce, and lots of cheese come together to make this dynamite vegetarian pasta.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium cauliflower broken into 1 inch floweretes
- 3 medium garlic cloves minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 cups tomato puree canned or fresh (see notes on how to make fresh)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb thin spaggetti
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Add the bay leaf and basil. Saute for about one minute, then add the cauliflower, and sprinkle it with 1 tsp salt. Saute until the cauliflower begins to soften, then add the garlic, and continue to cook for another couple minutes. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn. You may need to add a little water (about 1/4 cup).
Add the tomato puree, and lower to a simmer. Cover the skillet half-way with a lid, and cook on low for about 15 minutes.
Cook the Spaghetti in salted boiling water, according to package instructions. Drain, and add the spaghetti to a large pasta serving bowl. Toss with the remaining olive oil, butter, and half the cheese.
Pour the tomato cauliflower mixture over the noodles, and top with the remaining cheese. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
To make 2 cups fresh tomato puree:
Drop about 1 1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes into the boiling pasta water. Let them sit in the boiling water for about one minute, or until the peels just begin to wrinkle and crack. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in a colander. Run cold water over the tomatoes, and slip the skins off (they should come off very easily). Using a pairing knife, cut out the top stem of each tomato, then place them all in the food processor. Pulse until they are pureed to desired texture.