Creamy, cheesy sauce over cauliflower, baked in the oven until the edges get crunchy and bubbly. It’s like a healthier version of mac and cheese.
Oven baking allows you to make this dish ahead, and then bake when needed. However, you can forget the oven and simply eat the creamed cauliflower after pouring the cheese sauce over the cooked cauliflower if you prefer.
Yet another way to use versatile white sauce!
Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole 4+ servings
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried red chili pepper flakes
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
8 oz. sharp Cheddar, grated (equivalent to about 1 cup)
Ground paprika, Hungarian or smoked
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the salt and the cauliflower, reduce heat to medium and simmer until crisp tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Or, if you are not going to bake the dish, cook until tender.
3. Meanwhile, use extra butter (or spray) a large baking dish (large enough to comfortably fit all the cauliflower).
4. Drain the cauliflower and add the florets to the baking dish.
5. To make the cheese sauce:
a. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat.
b. Add the garlic, chili flakes, thyme leaves, mustard, salt and pepper; cook for about 1 minute.
c. Add the flour and stir constantly. This flour-butter mixture is called a roux. You want the roux to get just a little brown; this will probably take another minute. Also, during this added cooking time, the flavors develop so as to avoid a raw flour taste.
d. Slowly add the milk to the pot, stirring constantly.
e. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens (it should coat a metal spoon).
f. Taste the sauce and additional salt and pepper as needed.
g. When mixture is thick, add the cheese. You should have a creamy, smooth, savory sauce at this point.
6. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower.
7. Top with a light coating of bread crumbs and a sprinkling of paprika.
8. Place the dish in the oven for 40 minutes, or until top is brown and bubbly.