With family in Minnesota and a grandmother who was more comfortable with a can of cream-of-mushroom soup than she was with filling a cookie jar, I grew up acutely familiar with the casserole, otherwise known as the “hot dish.” They were rich, creamy, normally covered in cheese, and, quite frankly, a welcome respite from all the vegetables normally served.
I now like to make the base for my casserole from scratch. I start with a béchamel like I’m making mac n’ cheese and liven it up with fresh herbs, citrus and a vegetable or two. Because it has noodles, this casserole is like a mac n’ cheese, but a little less rich, and the acid in the lemon juice cuts through the creamy béchamel. Serve with a salad on the side.
Cauliflower Cheese Casserole
3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
½ onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
zest of one lemon
7 ounces (1 ¾ cups) Gouda cheese, shredded
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter. Add garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. Place cauliflower florets on a sheet pan and top with butter mixture. Gently mix to evenly coat cauliflower. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Grease casserole dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Set aside.
While cauliflower is roasting, heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and flour. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring the whole time, and being careful to get around the edges of the pan. Add ¼ cup milk and whisk thoroughly so there are no lumps. Repeat with remaining milk, adding ¼ cup at a time. Whisking constantly, increase heat to medium, and bring to a low boil. Add onion, then lower heat to simmer. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the mint, parsley, lemon zest and 5 ounces (1 ¼ cup) shredded Gouda and mix until the cheese is melted. Add the pepper flakes and the pasta and stir.
Remove cauliflower from oven and place in prepared casserole dish in even layer. Pour pasta mixture over cauliflower and mix gently. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce starts to firm and the top is golden brown and crusty. Remove from oven and wait to let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
casserole, cauliflower, cheese
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