Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Southwest Cauliflower Pasta Bake


Here’s a fun one—we bought a head of cauliflower a while back…for pretty well no reason aside from the fact that it was 29 cents.  Usually, I pretty well only use cauliflower in its raw form as a salad topping, but cauliflower is actually a really great option as a “filler” in casseroles & baked dishes.  It’s really low in calories, and doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own, and once you boil it, it breaks down really easily so you can sneak it into dishes.

…especially cheesy dishes. I mean, surely I’m not alone here: I can remember my grandma trying to get me to eat plain steamed cauliflower, and I fought it like she was trying to poison me.  But then, ol’ Nana dumped cheese sauce all over it.


(Clever Nana…DANGIT, yes, now I DO want it.)

As an adult, I know the benefits of these tiny albino trees.  Despite their lack of color, they’re a great source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, fiber, and B vitamins.  Not to mention there’s only 30 calories in a whole cup.

I started with this recipe from Jamie Oliver, and then modified it to give the dish a Southwest feel.


1 head of cauliflower

1 lb. whole wheat pasta, uncooked

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup jalapenos, diced

8 oz. 2% or low fat Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

4 oz. 2% or low fat Pepper jack, shredded

1 cup nonfat sour cream

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tsp Sea salt

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp Pampered Chef chipotle seasoning

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

additional seasoning to taste

1 cup sweet corn kernels

1 cup black beans, rinsed


1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup wheat bran flakes

1 pat butter, melted



Separate the cauliflower into 1-inch florets and wash well. 

Then boil with the pasta according to the directions on the pasta package (usually 7-10 minutes, depending on your preferred done-ness).

While the pasta is cooking, dice your onions & jalapenos. 

Now, if you read the original recipe, it calls for you to use the pasta/cauliflower pot as a double boiler, and melt the cheese in a bowl placed on top of the pasta pot, while the pasta is cooking.  I found this to be a challenge, because the pasta & cauliflower together require a really big pot, which means you need an equally large bowl to sit on top of the pot.  I didn’t have one, so I ended up having to use a bowl with handles so the handles would rest on the edge of the pot, as shown here:


This results in the bowl actually being in contact with the water, and the pasta, and consequently it got hot really fast & cooked the cheese a little too quickly in my opinion.  It would have been really easy to overshoot & have things start separating out.  Also, having a bowl of hot cheese on top of your pasta makes it kind of hard to focus both on your cheese melting and then, occasionally lifting up the bowl to check on your pasta.

So if you don’t have the proper pots & bowls to make this work, do yourself a favor & just start a separate, smaller pot of water to boil & use that as your double-boiler for melting the cheese.

Anyway… once the cheese is good & melty, and the pasta/cauliflower is done, drain the pasta/cauliflower in a colander, and then return to the pot.  Add the onions, jalapenos, corn, black beans, and finally the cheese sauce.  Add the first round of seasonings, and then season to taste.

Once everything’s tasting good, you can either serve it like this:


Or you can transfer the contents of the pot into a 9x13 baking dish, and then top with the bread crumb topping as noted above. (The wheat bran is optional—I just like to add it along with bread crumbs for the additional fiber & nutritional benefits.)  Then heat under the broiler in the oven until the crust is golden.


(Cauliflower?  What cauliflower?  There’s no cauliflower in here, kids!  Just cheesy pasta!  You love cheesy pasta!)


NutriFacts: (makes 12 servings)

Calories 227.4

  Total Fat 4.2 g

  Saturated Fat 2.5 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g

  Cholesterol 12.3 mg

  Sodium 120.9 mg

  Potassium 281.5 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 38.2 g

  Dietary Fiber 6.3 g

  Sugars 0.5 g

  Protein 11.0 g

Shared on 33 Shades of Green's Tasty Tuesday


  1. Oh this looks and sounds delicious! Any way to sneak healthy veggies into a cheesy pasta dish is okay by me! ;)

  2. check it. mama is making this one.
    one question...why do you have to do the whole double broiler thingy in the first place?
    ok, two questions.
    what did you serve with it?? you should post you rwhole menus b/c that is one of the things I really sturggle with.

    yummmmmmy. i heart cauliflower even just steamed plain!

  3. @Thea: broiling is totally optional. I just felt like putting a crumbly crust on it. And: the first night we served it with a ham steak, the next night I did a grilled chicken breast that was seasoned w/ some lime juice & chipotle rub (a premixed seasoning from Pampered Chef). And that's a good idea- I'll start giving more meal details! Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.