I have a warming, secretly healthful, trickster recipe for you that presents like comfort food. The kind of stick-to-your ribs pasta dinner that makes you think you are eating lots of cheesy alfredo sauce, when actually you’re eating plenty of vegetables. No funny ingredients, no factory-made foods. Just … cauliflower, a bit of broth, a shallot, some roasted garlic. An optional sprinkle of nutritional yeast (but honestly, it really is optional) and there you have it! Sautéed mushrooms and ribbons of kale provide a bit of a textural change and a hint of green to balance things out.
Zach isn’t big on cauliflower (but he eats it, when I make this pizza!). If I make a curry with cauliflower, he’ll pretend he isn’t hungry enough to finish a whole bowl (sneaky Zach, I’m onto you). This is how I unofficially became the “dad” in the house. He doesn’t finish his veggies, and onto my plate they usually go. I laugh because I think this is typically the dad’s role in a household, though my own dad didn’t eat our unfinished plates. My father-in-law sometimes becomes the leftover-cake-eater when my nieces and nephews decide they can’t finish their second slices at family birthday parties.
Anyways, knowing what I do about my husband and his preference for burgers and pizza over the vegetable parade I tend to serve up, I myself sneakily tucked the tray of roasted cauliflower back into the oven when he wandered through the kitchen. I didn’t want him to decide he wasn’t going to like it before tasting. Do you do this for your kids? Or partners? I just think it’s sometimes better for him not to know, so that he eats healthy food. If he was left to fend for himself, he might make scrambled eggs on occasion but for the most part, it would be drive-through burgers and takeaway pizzas. Could we be anymore equally matched? ; )
Growing up, fettuccini alfredo was my favourite dinner to order in a restaurant. Even though it usually made my stomach hurt, the rich and creamy sauce was too good to pass over on the menu. Alfredo wasn’t exactly the flavour I was trying to replicate when I began this recipe but I’m so happy for the way it turned out. Actually, I had a gorgeous soup in mind that I’ve made many times out of Aran’s cookbook – it’s rich, smooth and a total delight, and is made with roasted cauliflower and potatoes. I wanted a pureed roasted cauliflower sauce to toss with pasta, and ended up with a keeper suggestive of a food I used to love. Serve it up to the veggie (and non-veggie)-lovers in your life and keep warm, it’s getting chilly out there xx
Creamy Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms & Kale Ribbons
Makes 4 moderate servings and can be doubled if you would like to serve more. Reheat leftovers in a saucepan with a little extra broth to thin out. You can use white, button or baby bellas in place of the cremini mushrooms, and swiss chard or broccoli florets instead of kale. For a take on homemade mac and cheese, you could top the dish with (gluten free, if intolerant) breadcrumbs and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350 F, to toast. This recipe requires a blender to create the creamy sauce.
- 3 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 large shallot, chopped into small pieces
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp + 1/4 tsp grapeseed or olive oil (divided)
- ½ tsp + a pinch sea salt + additional salt for pasta water (divided)
- 3 whole cloves garlic, papery skins intact
- ¼ tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- ¾ c stock (light-coloured vegetable or chicken broth)
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 stalk of fresh thyme (about 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves)
- 2 tbsp dry white wine (or 1 tsp white wine vinegar)
- 1 package (454 g) pasta of your choice (I prefer to use fusilli brown rice pasta, but shapes like penne or small shells would also work well – ensure your pasta is gluten-free if you cannot tolerate gluten)
- 1 cup dinosaur/black kale (about 6-7 small stalks), thick stems removed and sliced into ribbons
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Set oven temperature to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets, and add to the prepared baking sheet. Add the chopped shallot and the whole garlic cloves to the pan. Drizzle with 1 generous tablespoon of grapeseed oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and gently toss to combine. Spread the cauliflower mixture across your baking sheet, avoiding too much overlap. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. When the cauliflower mixture is done, you’ll see some browning edges of florets and shallots and everything will be somewhat soft. The garlic will be easy to pinch out of its papery shell. Set aside.
When the cauliflower is about halfway through cooking, start the pasta by adding water and a generous amount of sea salt or kosher salt to a medium-sized pot. Add the pasta, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cooking times vary depending on the type of pasta you are using, so reference the instructions on the package – the brown rice pasta I use takes about 12-14 minutes to cook.
Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and allow the pan to become hot. Add the sliced mushrooms to the hot pan with a big pinch of sea salt and sauté, waiting for the water to release from the mushrooms and stirring often. When the mushrooms release their water, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 teaspoon of grapeseed or olive oil and the fresh thyme, and stir. Continue cooking for another minute or two, and then add the white wine (or, add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar if you’re not cooking with wine). Allow the mushrooms to absorb the liquid, cooking for an additional couple minutes, and then remove from the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add 1/4 teaspoon of grapeseed or olive oil. Add the kale ribbons and stir to lightly coat with oil, allowing them to wilt from the heat. Sauté for about 1 minute and remove from heat.
Place the roasted cauliflower and shallots into the blender. Add 3/4 cup broth, squeeze the garlic from it’s papery shells and add it to the blender too. If using the nutritional yeast, add now. Blend on high until completely smooth, stopping to scrap down the sides of the blender as needed. Taste and add a pinch more salt, if needed.
Drain the pasta once it’s cooked and place in a large serving dish or return to the empty pot. Pour the cauliflower puree over the pasta, and stir to combine. Add the prepared mushrooms, kale, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and stir to mix through. Serve and enjoy.