Cauliflower Au Gratin Italian Style
Do you miss pasta or think there’s no way that you could ever live without it? Well I’ve got just the thing for you…
Now that we’ve made a huge batch of Italian Sausage and Olive Spaghetti Sauce, we’re gonna put it to good use. VERY good use.
Today we’re making Cauliflower Au Gratin Italian Style. This is a classic dish from my childhood, only I kinda kicked up a notch now that I’m all grown up! I mean, I could defend myself in a kitchen as a child, but I wasn’t quite as talented as I am now. So back then, this dish consisted of bland, overcooked cauliflower smothered in some of my mom’s spaghetti sauce (which was absolutely fabulous, by the way. My mom is the one who taught me the art of making Spaghetti Sauce and I think she did an incredible job!) I would then top it all with mozzarella cheese, without any other form of ceremony.
Of course, I would then throw the whole thing in the oven and wait for that cheese to melt and get all nice and bubbly and golden for me. That much I already knew how to do.
But I was missing out on a few little details…
In recreating this dish, I first made sure that my cauliflower remained firm, but not so firm that it would be unpleasant to the palate, and that it wouldn’t release too much water. I mean SOME water releasing is inevitable, but I didn’t want to end up with a soupy mess at the bottom of my plate, if you know what I mean.
Secondly, I used a Spaghetti Sauce so delicious, so earthy and so nutritious that one would gladly eat it by the spoonful just like they would a stew… A Spaghetti Sauce that’s filled with huge chunks of Homemade Italian Sausage and tons of whole large pitted olives of both the green and black varieties.
That alone did SO MUCH for the dish.
But I had to kick it up even more…
I told you that after my last round of Whole30 was over that I was craving cheese something fierce. Well, this dish honored that craving perfectly well. .
This Cauliflower au Gratin simply OOZES with cheese. There’s cheese IN it and there’s cheese ON it. Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I had to use TWO different kinds of cheese, too. Oh, I could’ve used more, but I didn’t want to go overboard, you know.
Besides, trust me, this dish is CHEEZY enough as it is.
See what I mean?
So yeah… I’d would say that this cauliflower dish is pretty decadent and will no doubt have you completely forget about the very existence of pasta.
But even without the cheese, it would still be pretty glorious if you ask me. So by all means, if you don’t (or can’t) do dairy ever, don’t let that stop you from giving this a go. Simply leave the cheese out, that’s all. I won’t take it personal, promise!
For starters, you’ll need to preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and reheat your spaghetti sauce, if you have to.
Then, place the cauliflower florets, water and salt in a large stock pot, cover and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, until the cauliflower is just slightly softened. By all means, do not overcook it. It will be spending a fair bit of time in the oven later, so you only want to give it a bit of a head start here.
Drain the water well and return your cauliflower to the stock pot. Place the stock pot with the cauliflower in it back over the heat source and cook over medium heat this time for about a minute, just to dry the cauliflower out a bit. That simple little precaution will translate into less water at the bottom of your plate later!
When the cauliflower has had a chance to get rid of its excess moisture, add the warm spaghetti sauce and cubed mozzarella cheese to the pot.
Mix delicately until all the ingredients are well combined, then transfer to a large baking dish and top with the grated mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheeses.
Or, if you want to keep things real simple and save yourself some dishes, you could just leave everything in this pot, providing it’s oven safe, and sprinkle the cheese all over the top.
Bake your gratin for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and starts to bubble and turn nicely golden brown. Need I tell you that the house will smell AMAZING by now? And your stomach will probably be rumbling shamelessly, too!
But you still need to be patient… just a little while longer.
Remove the dish from the oven and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and garnish with fresh Bay leaves if you so desire.
Now sit yourself down to your plate and prepare to be swept off your feet.
And when you manage to get your body back in a horizontal position, you answer me this: what exactly is it that pasta has over cauliflower?
Yeah! I thought so…
Cauliflower Au Gratin Italian Style
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and reheat the spaghetti sauce, if necessary.
- Place the cauliflower florets, water and salt in a large stock pot, cover and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, until the cauliflower is just slightly softened. Drain the water well and return it to the stock pot. Place the stock pot with the cauliflower in it back over the heat source and cook over medium heat this time for about a minute, just to dry the cauliflower out.
- Add the hot spaghetti sauce and cubed mozzarella cheese to the cauliflower and mix delicately until all the ingredients are well combined.
- Transfer to a large baking dish and top with the grated mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheeses.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and starts to bubble and turn nicely golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.