This cauliflower cheese sauce is rich, creamy, and decadent in all the right ways. And it checks all the boxes.
The fresh pasta lends the perfect chewiness while the toasted garlic breadcrumb toppings add that satisfying crunch. This is the recipe you make when you’re thinking about fondue but need to eat your veggies.
For the last decade it feels like folks have been transforming and using cauliflower as everything except for what it is, a vegetable. The most famous examples are probably cauliflower rice and pizza crust.
No shades to these foods, truly. Getting your veggies in while eating cheese and tomato sauce is a mission we fully support, looking at you parmigiana.
But we need to let cauliflower have her main character moment again, and we do this by featuring her as the main ingredient in roasts or better yet, a veggie rich cheesy pasta sauce.
Cauliflower Makes a Great Cheesy Sauce
As stated previously, Cauliflower transforms into other foods really well. This makes it hands down one of the best and most versatile vegetables.
One of the reasons we love it is because it roasts and boils extremely well making it super easy to turn into a cheesy sauce!! While you can mash cauliflower to make it more creamy we find blending it is the key to make a cheese like sauce, in addition to adding cheese of course.
Just make sure the cauliflower is fully cooked through before throwing it in the blender or running it through the immersion blender. This will ensure the sauce has an even and smooth consistency.
Can I Make this Cheese Sauce with Broccoli?
Yes you could totally make this recipe with broccoli. Broccoli has stronger flavors than cauliflower so that’s something to take into consideration. We actually have a fantastic one pot recipe if you’d like to try!
Related: Orecchiette with Broccoli
How to Make Garganelli Fresh Pasta
Honestly, the hardest and most time consuming part of this recipe is making the fresh pasta. We used a recipe from our friends over at q.b. Cucina who specialize in working with fresh pasta dough and are super experienced in making all sorts of fun shapes!
Grab the Graganelli fresh pasta recipe here.
Can I Use Dried Pasta?
Absolutely!! If you, like me, find yourself short on patience when working with fresh dough then you can absolutely make this recipe with dried pasta, however, it's so much better with fresh.
Making fresh pasta can be super intimidating but we promise once you practice a bit you truly start to get the hang of it. It just takes some time to get used to working with the fresh dough.
The good news is that fresh pasta dough, unlike pie crust, is nearly impossible to overwork. In fact, the more you work it the better the pasta turns out. This is what makes the process so much less stressful and more fun!
You don't have to get it perfect on the first try. If you mess up making shapes or don't like how things turn out just form the dough back together, stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes (to rest), and try again. Give it a try and let us know how it turns out!
There isn't a specific vegetable broth included in this recipe. You can use bouillon cubes or powder. Or you can make a super simple broth with 2 carrots, half an onion, and a few sticks of celery.
If you have a favorite vegetable stock or some stocked up in your freezer feel free to use that.
How to Make Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
To make the sauce it's best to roughly chop the cauliflower into florets or large chunks. Once the vegetable broth is boiling add in the cauliflower and let it cook until fork tender. Some of the broth will evaporate during the process and that's fine because it helps the sauce to thicken up.
While the cauliflower is boiling, heat a pan on medium low and add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and if you want some spicy peppers. Gently fry, or boil, the garlic in the oil for just a minute or two. The garlic should turn a shade darker to a medium blonde.
Don't do this part of high or the garlic will burn. In addition, we like to just smash the garlic and put it in the pan then cover with oil so the fat gets into all the little crevices, but nothing burns. Towards the end of cooking the garlic we also like to smash the garlic once or twice with the back of a fork to help make sure the middle gets some exposure to the pan. This makes the garlic more jammy.
Sometimes not enough of the broth evaporates which can make the cream sauce a little bit too liquidy, we have a work around for this. Reserve half of the broth. Add the other half of the broth, cauliflower, EVOO, and garlic to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Then transfer the sauce back to a pot. We like using a pot with high sides just in case there is any splattering.
Turn the heat on super low and then add the grated cheese, stir until all of the cheese is melted.
Recommended for this recipe: Lina extra virgin olive oil
How to Make Garlicky Breadcrumbs
Follow the same process as above for heating the extra virgin olive oil, spicy peppers, and garlic. Toast the breadcrumbs until they're nice and crunchy. We like a medium, golden brown color. Be careful, if the heat gets too high it's very easy to burn them.
Fresh pasta doesn't need to boil for very long and you don't want to over cook it. It's better to remove it a little early rather than a little late. If you need to add more liquid to the pan use the other half of the broth we reserved earlier in the process. This will add even more flavor and depth to the dish. Enjoy!
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