I hate dishes. Is hate too strong a word? Nope. I hate them. But they are a necessary evil, and Mrs. Weasley keeps ignoring my invitation to come stay in our spare bedroom (Nerd Alert!). I recognize the seeming conflict between being a food blogger and my distaste for dishes. But if you love something enough, it can cancel out (or at least displace) the negative stuff. Also, my husband does way more dishes than me, for which I am supremely grateful. I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to minimizing the dishes required for a recipe, and this pasta bake is the perfect example. It requires one pot, a blender or food processor, and a baking dish. The method involved also saves time by using the same pot for multiple steps that would typically be completed separately. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Cauliflower and cashews come together to make a creamy and delicious sauce, while remaining skinny jean friendly. If you want to make it even lighter, you can leave the cashews out (see recipe notes). I recommend them for that luscious mouthfeel, but it’s still super tasty without. I feel really weird about that last sentence. Moving on…
To get started, put a big pot of water on to boil. Next, perform core removal surgery on your cauliflower. The basic idea is to run a knife around the core, then pop it out. Is it just me, or does de-cored cauliflower look a little like brain? Sorry, I know that’s not very appetizing, I just call it like I see it.
Next, break the cauliflower into large florets. Keeping them around the same size helps them cook evenly and leaving them large makes it easy to strain them out of the boiling water when they’re done cooking. I present to you, Florets of Cauliflower.
Add the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves to the boiling water. TIP! Adding the garlic to the boiling water mellows it out and eliminates the need to cook it in a separate pan. I do this when making any blended sauce with garlic as an ingredient, or when making mashed potatoes. Once cooked, take the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves out with any utensil that strains (slotted spoon, spider, or small fine-mesh strainer), and add them to a blender or food processor. By the way, boiling the cashews eliminates the need to soak them. Yay! Now add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it’s ready. Only you will know when that is. Just kidding, follow the directions on the pasta package.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the blender or food processor, and puree the bejeezus out of it until it is creamy and saucy and wonderful. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top and mix to combine.
Once you have mixed that saucy wonderfulness into the pasta, top it with whatever crunchy topping your heart desires. If you happen to have some Nooch-Its handy, crush them into fine crumbs and add them to the top. You will not be disappointed.
Bake until the topping is browned in spots, and then shovel enormous spoonfuls into your face. It would probably be a good idea to wait for it to cool down first. You know best.
Get your cauliflower on! (I am such a dork).
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ - 2 cups unsweetened plain non-dairy milk, or water
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg, optional
- 16 oz. macaroni or other pasta shape (I used whole grain pasta, but gluten-free works great too)
- 1 cup bread crumbs or crushed crackers of choice for topping (I used Nooch-Its)
- Put a large pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash cauliflower and trim off outer leaves. With a small knife, carve out the core. Break the cauliflower into large florets.
- Add the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves into the boiling water, and cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Using a straining utensil, remove the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic, and add to a blender or food processor.
- Add the pasta into the boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package.
- Add all remaining ingredients except the breadcrumbs to the blender or food processor and puree until creamy. Start with 1½ cups of non-dairy milk or water, and add up to ½ cup more if the sauce seems too thick. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to a 9 x 13 baking dish or equivalent. Add the sauce and mix to combine. Top with breadcrumbs and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. If the topping is not browned on top, place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown.