Cauliflower Cheese Italian Style

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: easy

‘…it’s the creamy Fontina cows milk cheese which makes this yummy dish have an Italian spin. It’s warming, and quick, which in winter is just what you want. I had three plates!’

Leo Williamson
'Oh! Love cauliflower cheese. But this is an Italian cauliflower cheese...

What you need

500g of cauliflower
300g tortiglioni, rigatoni or penne pasta

 

Savoury base
1 clove garlic
1 onion
2 sticks celery
150g smoked pancetta or bacon
3 bay leaves
1tsp fresh thyme leaves

 

Cheese sauce
2 tbs butter
2 tbs plain flour
500ml chicken stock
200ml white wine
200g grated fontina cheese (or gruyere or cheddar)
100g low fat cream cheese
4 tbs half fat crème fraiche (optional)
Salt and pepper
Lemon

 

Crunchy topping
30g butter
100g grated parmesan
50g bread crumbs
Paprika



Dad's Recipe Tales

This satisfying winter warmer is a cauliflower cheese in the guise of an Italian pasta bake. It has a crunchy top with a soft and savoury filling. Fontina works well in the sauce and gives the dish an Italian flair. It’s impossible not to like!

Tip: Omit the pancetta and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Cook the cauliflower. Chop the cauliflower into florets, chop the stalks and use a few tender leaves. Cook in a pan of boiling water until al dente and drain.
  2. Cook the pasta. Bring 3 litres of salted water to the boil in a large pan. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta reserving some of the liquid. Keep the pasta warm, splash with pasta water to stop it sticking.
  3. Make the sauce. Put the wine in a sauce pan and bring to the boil for a minute. Take off the heat and add to the stock. Mix the flour and butter in a pan. Cook this roux on a low heat for a couple of minutes, then slowly add the wine and stock in stages, stirring all the time to keep it smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for a good 5 minutes, then stir in the cream cheese. Turn off the heat and add the fontina evenly into the liquid. Leave for a few minutes to melt. Then heat and stir very gently until smooth (do not overheat). Season with salt pepper and lemon to taste – add the crème fraîche for a richer sauce. Keep warm.
  4. Cook the savoury bits. Slice the pancetta into thin lardons. Chop the onion, celery and garlic. Fry the pancetta in a tablespoon of olive oil, add the onions and celery and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme, stir and sweat for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Combine all the ingredients. Stir carefully to mix. If necessary, add some reserved pasta liquid to loosen the mixture. Transfer to a baking dish.
  6. Make the topping. Put the parmesan and breadcrumbs in a bowl and add small pieces of butter. Mix together with your fingers as if making a crumble. Sprinkle this over the pasta and dust with paprika.
  7. Bake. Put in an oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crisp on top and heated through.

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