Try this creamy roasted cauliflower pasta bake the next time you’re craving a hot bowl of comfort on a cold night.
I was scouring my local HomeGoods recently and came across this pasta that looks like little pumpkins. It was too cute not to pass up. I figured it would turn into a nice autumn pasta dish with roasted butternut squash and fresh herbs.
Then the other day, I got a craving from my childhood — steamed cauliflower with white sauce. I remember it being one of Dad’s specialties and have a vague memory of requesting this dish often as a six year old. Not sure if my Dad realizes how fancy he was being making béchamel! I’ll have to remind him.
Ok, so I’ve got cauliflower and white sauce on the brain and this seasonal pasta…I think they’d go pretty well together!
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You can get your hands on this *Butternut Squash Fioretti through Amazon. Or, if you’re near a Trader Joe’s, they have a version called Zucchette. If you can’t acquire either, use any small shaped pasta — rigatoni or campanelle would be nice.
This dish comes together in about 45 minutes if you prep your ingredients before you begin and follow the timing in the instructions below. You’ll have multiple things going at once, but the components time out nicely.
Preheat the oven and set a pot of water to boil while you trim and cut your cauliflower. Your sheet pan will be ready for the oven by the time it reaches temp.
While the cauliflower is roasting away, drop the pasta in your pot of boiling, salted water and set a timer for al dente. Start the bacon as the pasta cooks. The pasta and bacon should be done with plenty of time to make the sauce.
To spare another pan, make your sauce in the pasta pot as the pasta drains. A basic white sauce is quite easy to make with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Once the sauce thickens, remove it from the burner and add the grated cheese, spices + lemon zest.
At this point, everything should be cooked and ready to combine — which you can do in the pasta pot. Transfer the pasta goodness to a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. A few more minutes in the oven and you’ll be serving hot, comforting Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Bake to your adoring fans.
CREAMY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER PASTA BAKE
- 1 head cauliflower cut into bite size pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 6 slices center cut bacon
- 12 oz butternut squash fioretti pasta or other artisinal pasta
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk low-fat
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper
- zest of half a lemon
- ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano freshly grated
- ½ cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped fine
- Preheat oven to 425° and set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
Roasting the Cauliflower
- Remove the leaves and core from the head of cauliflower. Cut the head in half, then cut each half into 1/2" slices. Cut away any large chunks of core still attached so that only florets remain. Break larger pieces into bite size ones and place them on a sheet pan.
- Drizzle the cauliflower with 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt + pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the florets and spread them into a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through. Set aside when done, but leave the oven on.
Prep the Pasta + Sauce
- While the caulifower roasts, cook the pasta per the package instructions for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain + set aside.
- While the pasta boils, in a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain + cool.
- Melt the butter in the pasta pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Add the milk and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the burner and add the lemon zest, nutmeg, crushed red pepper, fresh ground black pepper and Parmigianno; stir to combine.
- Return the pasta to the pot. Crumble the bacon into the pot and add the roasted cauliflower. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time if the mixture is too thick.
Assemble + Top with Breadcrumbs
- Tranfer the pasta to a 9 x 13 casserole spritzed with olive oil spray.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp of olive oil and the breadcrumbs. Mix with a fork until the oil is evenly distributed through the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle evenly all over the pasta.
- Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Garnish with chopped parsley + serve!