Recipe #3 in The Cauliflower Series, in honor of my favorite vegetable, cruciferous or otherwise
After all these years, simply roasted cauliflower still does it for me – a bit of olive oil, some salt and garlic powder, and a nice hot oven leaves it all crispy and tender with the most wonderful crunchy bits. In The Cauliflower Series I’ve shared a few ways to use this yummy roasted cauliflower – with kale, in this nutty salad – but today’s recipe boasts a whole different flavor profile: Italian! Roasted cauliflower + marinara sauce + a little bit of ground beef = whoa. This is an awesome and hearty dish, perfect to warm and fill your tummy on a cold January night.
An aside on preparing cauliflower
I’ve realized a note on cauliflower prep would have been more appropriate at the beginning of my series… but better late than never!
Your cauliflower should be firm and blemish free – if you see any green or black moldy bits, you can cut them off, but best to just buy a fresh cauliflower and not leave it in your fridge so long it develops spots.
First, remove the leaves and stems: turn the cauliflower upside down, and with a thick sharp knife, cut out the core. Think: removing the stem from a pumpkin. Once you do a complete 360 degree turn, the core should pop right out, perhaps with a little assistance from you.
Next, cutting the cauliflower: I rarely bother with breaking it into florets – don’t have the time or the patience! I cut the cauliflower vertically into 1-inch steaks (which you can then grill just like steaks if you like!) and then cut them horizontally again so I end up with chunks, instead of florets.
Sure, the chunks aren’t as pretty as florets, but who cares? Unless perhaps you’re cooking for a dinner party and you have friends who would judge you for having chunks of cauliflower instead of florets. (But then I think you should probably be worrying about your friend group and not the size and shape of your cauliflower pieces.) Moral of the story: chunks taste the same, and who has time for florets? Not this cook.
Adapted from this Cooking Light recipe
Time: 45 minutes (active time 15 minutes) Servings: 4, 2-cup servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 ounces lean ground sirloin
- sprinkling of salt
- sprinkling of black pepper
- 1.5 cups marinara sauce (I happened to have a jar of Nonna’s Smoky Sauce – yummy! Hubby and I met Nonna when we took a pasta-making class with her, and we love her locally grown and cooked products!)
- 1 medium cauliflower (if it’s small-ish, so what? You have some extra sauce. If it’s large-ish, so what? No such thing as too much cauliflower.)
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated dry aged cheese (parmesan, pecorino Romano, whatever you have. Feta would also be amazing.)
This is so simple you won’t believe it.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Chop up your cauliflower (see above). Spray a baking sheet or pyrex with cooking spray, toss the cauliflower in, spray a bit more cooking spray on the cauliflower, and sprinkle with salt.* Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender with little crispy edges.
*This cooking spray trick is one of my faves – it eliminates the need for olive oil. Since we’re adding in so much other flavor with the marinara sauce, no sense in adding in extra calories, right?
While the cauliflower roasts, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Once the oil is heated, add onion and sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in beef. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble the beef. Add in sauce.
Now, you should have a few minutes while you wait for the cauliflower to finish roasting. Relax, do some dishes, have a glass of wine. (One of my favorite Julia Child quotes is, “I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” Although I will not follow Julia’s lead where copious amounts of butter are concerned, in this I will follow unquestioningly!)
Once your cauliflower is done, you have two options: you can pour the sauce into the cauliflower pan, or you can pour the cauliflower into the sauce pan, if your sauce skillet is oven-safe. I did cauliflower into my skillet, because I am embarrassed by the state of my pyrex pans and did not want to show them to you.
Mix well, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Return to oven and broil for 5 minutes or so, until you have a lovely brown top. Done and done!