Despite what you may think, there’s more to cauliflower than Ranch dressing. Carey Polis of Bon Appetit agrees: “You know what’s actually pretty frickin’ awesome? Cauliflower.”
Yep. The humble cauliflower seems to be upstaging Brussels sprouts as the vegetable du jour. I see it on menus as “steaks,” purees, roasted, pickled, creamed and more. My own menus frequently include the veg of the moment. My go-to method is to toss bite-sized pieces with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, kosher salt and some pepper and roast on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes in a 425° oven. As a main dish, I’ve made an Indian curried version more than once, (though I significantly reduced the oil the recipe called for). Speaking of reducing fat, after hearing about a healthified version of fettuccine Alfredo, I wanted to give it a try. I’m not a fan of typical Alfredo-sauced pasta. With the butter, cream and cheese, after a few bites, I lose interest. But lowering the fat plus adding a health boost (cauliflower ranks a top cancer fighter) made me say, “Yes, please!” Even my Alfredo-fan husband, says, “More, please.”
I used my blender to puree the cooked cauliflower, broth and other ingredients — as long as the cauliflower is cooked until soft, any blender should work. Be careful when adding hot liquids to the blender as the heat can cause the lid to pop off. If you vent the cap slightly, heat can escape.
Cook It Just Right
The compounds that make cauliflower a good-for-you veg can also make it finicky. Overcook it and the sulfur compounds are released so the sulfury smell hits high gear. Think Old Faithful. It took me years to make cauliflower soup after my first overcooked attempt left the house smelling like rotten eggs. Good thing I learned how to cook it the Goldilocks way … just right.
Why I Like This Recipe
- It’s stealth health. Doubtful anyone will guess that the sauce is a vegetable puree.
- Because the stems are used in the sauce, there’s little food waste.
- The leftover sauce freezes well, so you have another meal standing by. Just add the sauce to another cooked vegetable or use as a base for creamy soup or macaroni and cheese.
My recipe includes a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs. You might think they’re unnecessary, but I think the crunchiness enhances the dish.
At the store, choose a cauliflower that is creamy white and compact. Avoid those with brown spots. The leaves (which are edible) should be crisp and green. Cauliflower should be kept tightly wrapped and can be refrigerated up to five days.
Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccine
- 1 head fresh cauliflower
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup broth, chicken or vegetable
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 pound fettuccine
- Heat oven and a large baking sheet to 400°F.
- Cut cauliflower in half. Cut out center core and rough chop into pieces. A uniform size is good but not necessary.
- Break or cut remaining cauliflower into bite-sized florets. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with olive oil to coat. Carefully spread cauliflower on heated baking sheet. Spread the cauliflower out so pieces aren’t touching. Return to oven and roast 20-30 minutes, until soft and browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In the meantime, in a medium saucepan add cauliflower core, broth, garlic cloves, and chile flakes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Fettuccine takes about 12 minutes to cook, but you need to allow time to bring the water to a boil, which could be 15 minutes.
- In a blender, combine cauliflower broth mixture, milk, flour, butter, Parmesan cheese. Blend for a few minutes until mixture is smooth. This can be made ahead and refrigerated.
- When ready to serve, heat cauliflower mixture and lemon zest over medium heat, stirring regularly until mixture just begins to boil gently. Stir for one minute. Reduce heat to low.
- Combine roasted cauliflower and fettuccine in a large bowl. Stir in just enough sauce to coat the mixture. You will have sauce remaining. (You can freeze the remaining sauce in a tightly covered container).
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs and chopped parsley over top.
- To make Breadcrumbs: Use 2 slices of bread, any type and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Tear bread into pieces. Process in blender or food processor until coarse crumbs. Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil. Stir to coat. In a 300° oven, spread crumbs on a large baking sheet. Toast 5-8 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Breadcrumbs can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for several weeks.