It’s my feeling that cauliflower is one of the most underrated vegetables around. It is, in fact, super versatile and really very tasty. Especially, when it’s smothered in a creamy, delicious, cheesy, sauce and topped with bread crumbs and Parmesan.
I picked up some bagged cauliflower on my most recent trip to Costco and it was tough to decide which cauliflower recipe to share first. I have several that are pretty darn fabulous but with Easter right around the corner, this dish won out. It makes for a lovely addition to a holiday meal.
Let’s get in close here and take a look at the best thing about any type of gratin, that golden, crispy edge. Think mac and cheese meets cauliflower and you’ve got the basic idea.
It’s a pretty simple dish to put together and it can be prepared ahead of time and baked when you’re ready; a great time saver when you’re cooking a big meal. See the printable recipe below for the complete make-ahead instructions.
Let’s get our gratin on.
Cut any large florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Drop the florets into a pot of boiling water and allow it to cook for only 5 to 6 minutes at the most. It should still have some firmness to it and be just barely fork tender. Drain the water from the pot and set it aside.
Start the basic white sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour and cook for a minute or two to cook-off the flour taste. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of warmed milk. Cook and whisk until you have a nicely thickened white sauce. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and stir to combine.
A note about the milk. I use 2% reduced fat for this dish, which is what I keep in my fridge. You can use whatever you prefer, reduced fat or whole milk will both do the job.
Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 cup each of shredded sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Stir the cheese into the sauce until melted and smooth.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked cauliflower and stir it well to combine.
Transfer the whole kit and kaboodle to a large baking dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with a mixture of 1/3 cup Italian style Panko bread crumbs and 1/3 cup Parmesan.
Pop the dish in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or till golden brown and bubbly.
Creamy Cauliflower Gratin
- 2 pounds cauliflower florets (or 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk (reduced fat or whole), warmed in microwave for approximately 1 minute
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
- 1/3 cup Italian style Panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated or shaved Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until just barely tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for about two minutes. Gradually whisk in the warm milk. Continue to cook, whisking, until thickened. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheddar and jack cheese.
- Pour the sauce over the the cooked cauliflower and mix well to combine. Pour cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish.
- Combine the Italian style Panko bread crumbs with the Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over the top. Sprinkle with additional fresh ground pepper, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
- Adapted from Ina Garten
Follow recipe as written but do not add the bread crumb/Parmesan mixture to the top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to bake, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the kitchen counter for 20 to 30 minutes to take the chill off. Top with the breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture and bake as directed, increasing the cooking time a little, if necessary.