This golden and bubbly cauliflower casserole with creamy parmesan sauce and crispy topping is so scrumptious that it's sure to get everyone to eat their veggies!
Cauliflower Casserole, a Creamy and Cheesy Take on Cauliflower
If you were to ask me which cruciferous veggie I cook with most often, I would tell you that it's definitely cauliflower.
Delicate in flavor and easy to work with (not to mention inexpensive), I use cauliflower in everything from making low-carb cauliflower rice, to cauliflower poppers, to macaroni and cheese, to a hot dip, to vegetarian steaks.
I love how versatile it is, and how wonderfully it either blends into a dish, or becomes the star!
And because cauliflower is such a stellar veggie, it makes perfect sense to combine it with a creamy parmesan sauce, sprinkle over a combination of parmesan and panko breadcrumbs, and bake this scrumptious concoction until hot, bubbly and golden-brown.
It's how humble cauliflower becomes spectacular cauliflower casserole, a wonderfully cheesy and creamy side dish sure to make everyone ask for seconds on their veggies!
Simple Ingredients for Easy Cauliflower Casserole
This cauliflower casserole recipe has three basic components: the cauliflower, the sauce, and the crisp topping.
For convenience, I like to use pre-packaged cauliflower florets. They're already pretty much the perfect size, and make things a breeze!
I make my creamy sauce using a little butter, flour, milk, garlic, and parmesan.
The crisp topping, or gratin, is simply a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and some parmesan cheese, plus a little sprinkle of paprika for color, and a bit of melted butter for extra flavor—this offers some savory crunch, and that pretty golden-brown top!
How to Make Cauliflower Casserole
Preparing cauliflower casserole is just a matter of having the components ready, and then combining everything and baking off this scrumptious side dish.
It's almost hard to believe that such a relatively small handful of ingredients can create such a richly flavorful veggie dish!
Here's a little overview of my recipe:
- I begin by preparing my parmesan cheese sauce, and set that aside to keep warm.
- Next, I combine the ingredients for the crispy panko breadcrumb topping.
- Then I blanch the cauliflower florets in salted, simmering water for about 4-5 minutes, or until they are slightly tender yet still crisp/firm. When done, I drain them and pat them dry.
- To assemble, I spread a little of the sauce on the bottom of my baking dish, add in the blanched cauliflower florets, season them a bit, and top with the rest of the sauce.
- For the crispy topping I sprinkle over top my panko and parmesan mixture, bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly, then serve!
(My full recipe is below...)
Tips & Tidbits for Cauliflower Casserole:
- Pre-packaged florets for ease: While you can certainly use a head of cauliflower for this recipe and cut it into florets, I recommend pre-packaged florets as they'll save you little time, and some cleanup!
- A quick blanching: You'll want to take just a little of the raw crunch out of the cauliflower, so a 4-5 minute blanching in salted, simmering water will do the trick.
- Cheesy sauce: I like the savory flavor of parmesan for this creamy sauce, but you can substitute different cheeses such as cheddar, gruyere, or a four-cheese blend.
- Crisp breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are my crumb of choice, but you can use fresh breadcrumbs or traditional crumbs, whichever you prefer.
- Make ahead for easy cauliflower casserole: You can simplify things if you blanch your florets, prep your parmesan sauce, and mix your breadcrumb topping the day before you want to serve this side. You could even allow things to cool, then combine the sauce with the florets in the baking dish, and wrap in plastic. Simply top with the breadcrumbs before baking!
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 8
Nutrition Info: 273 calories
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
• 4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 4 ½ tablespoons flour
• 2 ½ cups milk (I use 2%)
• 1 ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided use
• Black pepper
• ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
• ¼ teaspoon paprika
• 3 pounds cauliflower florets, or cauliflower head, cut into florets
• ¼ teaspoon granulated onion
• ½ cup grated fontina cheese
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
-Preheat the oven to 375° and have medium-large baking dish ready on hand.
-To prepare the parmesan sauce place a medium-sized pot over medium heat; add in 2 ½ tablespoons of the butter, and once it has melted, add in the garlic, and stir until aromatic.
-Sprinkle in the flour evenly, and stir to create a roux, or a paste-like consistency; then, pour in the milk, whisking all the while to avoid lumps.
-Cook the mixture for about 5-6 minutes (whisking often), or until it comes to a vigorous simmer and thickens up.
-Whisk in a pinch or two of salt (I used 1 teaspoon total) and a pinch of pepper, and remove the sauce from the heat; add in 1 cup of the grated parmesan cheese, and whisk that in until well blended; set aside to keep warm.
-Prepare your panko topping by mixing together the panko breadcrumbs with the remaining ¼ cup of the parmesan, plus the paprika; melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and drizzle that into the mixture, mixing it together with a fork; set aside.
-Blanch the cauliflower florets in salted simmering water for about 4-5 minutes, or until slightly tender yet still crisp/firm; drain and pat dry very well.
-To assemble the cauliflower casserole, spread about 1 cup of the parmesan sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish; add in the blanched cauliflower florets, and sprinkle over them the granulated onion.
-Pour the remainder of the parmesan sauce over the seasoned cauliflower evenly, smoothing it out, then sprinkle over the fontina cheese.
-Sprinkle over the panko breadcrumb topping evening, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden-brown and crisp on top.
-Garnish with chopped parsley and serve!