Could it be, could it? Yes, I think this easy cauliflower casserole could be a TwitteRecipe, 140 characters no more. Let's try. Okay, yeah, piece of cake, 139 characters in the first try!
Cook cauliflower florets w salty h20, toss w cheese sauce, top w tomatoes, fresh mozz balls. Bake 350F til hot, broil if needed, add basil.
Oh good, because you'll want to remember this recipe. So simple: just cooked cauliflower tossed in a cheesy sauce then, you know, topped with more cheese plus a few tomatoes for virtue's sake. That said? This is a healthy casserole, there's cheese, sure but it's less than you might think, more like tiny "bombs" of cheese versus a heavy coating. Totally satisfying, this! You're gonna love it – at least I hope you will!
RECIPE for CHEESY CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE with CAPRESE TOMATOES
Time to table: 45 minutes
Very well-salted water
1 large head cauliflower, about 3-1/2 pounds
HOMEMADE CHEESE SAUCE
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk (see TIPS)
4 ounces good melting cheese (see TIPS), in small pieces
Small tomatoes, halved
Mini fresh mozzarella balls
Fresh basil ribbons
CAULIFLOWER Bring water to a boil. Cut the outer leaves off the cauliflower, then cut a large V out of the core, then cut into florets (How to Clean & Trim a Head of Cauliflower). When the water boils, drop florets into the water, cover and let simmer until the cauliflower is cooked, more than al dente but not mushy. Drain well.
CHEESE SAUCE While the cauliflower cooks, make the Cheese Sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat, add the onion and let cook until just soft. Stir in the flour and combine well until any possible floury clumps are worked out. Let the flour cook for a minute or two. Slowly add the milk (see TIPS), a tablespoon at a time at first, stirring in each spoonful completely before adding another. Add the cheese and let melt, stirring often with a wooden spoon (don't use a whisk) until fully melted. Do not allow to boil. Cheese sauce may be made in advance and gently rewarmed to serve.
CASSEROLE Heat oven to 350F/180C. Return drained cauliflower to its cooking pot, toss with warm Cheese Sauce. Turn cauliflower into an oven-safe baking dish. Top with a few small halved tomatoes, fill the center with small fresh mozzarella balls. (Experiment with one first, I realized mid-way in that it was better to scoop out the centers with a serrated spoon, then add the mozzarella. Depending on the size of the tomatoes and the mozzarella balls, you might want to halve the cheese balls too.)
BAKE Bake casserole for about 30 minutes. If the cheese has melted but not browned, put it under the broiler for a few minutes, taking care not to burn. Sprinkle with fresh basil ribbons and serve while hot.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
FLORET SIZE Floret size is important, especially if you're serving a larger group. The smaller the florets, the further the casserole will go; the larger the florets, the few servings the same head will produce.
SALT Do not under-salt the water, there's really no second chance in getting the salt right. Without well-salted cauliflower, the casserole is quite bland. Season up, y'all!
CHEESE SAUCE Full disclosure, when I made this casserole, I used a much-richer cheese sauce tested for my column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cauliflower Broccoli Gratin from Three Flags Tavern. The recipe I've included today, however, is my "standard" cheese sauce, the one I make almost without thinking. It's probably in various recipes across A Veggie Venture but I know for sure it's here in Whole Cauliflower with Homemade Cheese Sauce.
MILKS Skim milk and other low-fat milks can be used in the cheese sauce but can, some times, turn out a little bit grainy so I usually use whole milk, despite the added calories.
MELTING CHEESES I usually use Gruyere, Fontina, Monterey Jack but cheddar only in a pinch. So-called "American" cheese and Velveeta are great melting cheeses but don't appeal to everyone.
TOMATOES & CHEESE The small tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls from Trader Joe's are cute (and cute food is sure in, isn't it?) but another great way to make this casserole would be to arrange slices of great summer tomatoes across the top, then a thin slice of fresh mozzarella. It could be equally pretty!
BASIL I went with basil ribbons to save some calories but do think that a drizzle of basil pesto would be amazing, I'd use my recipe for Homemade Basil Pesto, so good!
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MORE FAVORITE CHEESY CAULIFLOWER RECIPES~ Whole Cauliflower with Homemade Cheese Sauce ~
~ One-Skillet Cauliflower with Cheese ~
~ Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese ~
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Savory Cauliflower Cake ~
~ Cauliflower Risotto ~
~ Stuffed Mushrooms with Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda ~
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
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