OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Of the parms, Cauliflower Parmesan is just right

Cauliflower Parmesan (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Cauliflower Parmesan (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Meet the Goldilocks of parmigiana dishes: Cauliflower parm.

Eggplant parmesan? Too greasy.

Chicken parmesan? Too time consuming.

Cauliflower parmesan? Perfect.

In this cruciferous twist on parmigiana, thick slabs of cauliflower are brushed with olive oil and roasted until tender and then topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Paired with a salad and some bread, it makes a nice meatless meal. Make the salad — or whatever you want to go alongside — while the cauliflower roasts, and dinner will be on the table in less than an hour.

I had hoped this would be the recipe to win over my cooked cauliflower hating husband, but it was not to be. He simply does not like the flavor of cooked cauliflower. That's OK, though. That left more for me. And honestly, I could have eaten the whole recipe myself. It's that good.

I love eggplant parm and chicken parm, but cauliflower beats both of those hands down. The cooking process is simpler thanks to no breading and no frying. Added bonus: no breading and no breadcrumbs means this parmigiana is gluten-free. And the flavor — there's magic in combining cauliflower, tomatoes and mozzarella.

From the crispy edges of the melted mozzarella, to the rich tomato sauce topping the slightly nutty roasted cauliflower, to the vibrant topping of fresh herbs and red pepper, every bite was just as delicious as the first.

You'll note I give the option of pizza sauce or marinara. I prefer pizza sauce for its thicker consistency. If you opt to go that way, I recommend a light hand with the salt, as pizza sauce tends to be saltier than regular marinara.

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Cauliflower Parmesan

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ½ to 1 cup red sauce such as pizza sauce or marinara
  • 1 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil and/or flat-leaf parsley (I used both)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Trim away and discard any leaves from the cauliflower. Cut the head vertically (through the stem) into ¾- to 1-inch thick slabs. The slices on each end may fall apart. Keep those florets. Arrange cauliflower planks in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the pieces in little piles. Brush the planks on both sides with olive oil; drizzle the piles, if any, with oil. Season everything with salt and ground black pepper. (I was able to cut three planks, plus two small piles of pieces from a smallish head of cauliflower.)

Roast, flipping once, until cauliflower is tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Set oven to broil. Top each cauliflower plank and pile with about 2 tablespoons (or more if you like it saucy) marinara sauce and then the mozzarella, divided evenly among each plank/pile, and then the parmesan.

Return cauliflower to oven and broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, about 3 minutes. (I left mine in just a little longer because the frico — the crispy bits of melted cheese — is one of my favorite parts.) Serve topped with basil/parsley and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from delish.com

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