Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake

Cauliflower Cashew Pasta BakeI 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.

Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake

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.

Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake

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.

Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake

Cauliflower_PicFrameYes, please.

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.

Foodgawker_Cauliflower

Get your cauliflower on! (I am such a dork).

Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Creamy cauliflower and cashews come together to make a delectable, creamy, low-calorie sauce, combined with pasta and baked to perfection. If you prefer, the cashews can be left out. If you go that route, start with 1 cup of non-dairy milk or water when pureeing and add more if necessary.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish, Pasta
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash cauliflower and trim off outer leaves. With a small knife, carve out the core. Break the cauliflower into large florets.
  3. Add the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves into the boiling water, and cook for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Using a straining utensil, remove the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic, and add to a blender or food processor.
  5. Add the pasta into the boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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Comments

  1. Kim Bradbury says

    Can’t wait to make this! I made a similar dish recently that didn’t include cashews and it lacked the luscious mouthfeel you talked about.

  2. Hannah Elizabeth says

    I’m sure we’d be a phenomenal team in the kitchen, Beth, as I don’t mind doing dishes…I kind of like it actually. :P

    This sauce sounds amazing, and cauliflower and cashews are two of my favorite “secret” ingredients. In fact, I’ve made several different sauces based on cauliflower and I love them all!! Funny, I’ve been thinking of marrying my two favorite secret weapons in a killer sauce, so I now I *REALLY* need to make it a priority now :P…so creamy and tempting…I can’t wait!! ;)

    • says

      Well, Hannah, I have you on record now. During our upcoming visit together you can do all the dishes your heart desires. :) Can’t wait to cook and photograph together!

  3. Shannon says

    cauliflower isn’t really my jam but mac and cheese? I’m thinking this is something I could love very much. Can’t wait to see more!

  4. godskidglo says

    Making this for dinner tonight….keep those recipes coming! This sounds similar to my vegan mac n’ cheese, but I usually use cashew/nut. yeast for the sauce, so I am looking forward to trying it with the cauliflower! I will let you know how it goes! :)
    Maybe I’ll make the pancakes for breakfast in the morning, too! :)

    • says

      Hi, Emma! Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know how it turns out for you! Also, I checked out your blog, love it!

  5. godskidglo says

    Ok, so I finally got a chance to make this and we really liked it! I like the fact that I can use cauliflower for the sauce and cut the calories and fat by quite alot from my cashew sauce that I normally make. SO YAY! Anna really liked it! Of course, we may have made up for the calories saved by having a big helping of seconds, so there you go! :)
    I haven’t made the pancakes yet, but thinking about having breakfast for dinner tonight! ;) Yum!

    • says

      Oh, I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! :) It makes me so happy that you are a) trying the recipes, and b) liking them. I like the creaminess that the cashews add, and I agree, having the sauce based on cashews alone is not only spendy calorie-wise, but wallet-wise!

  6. says

    This was PHENOMENAL … my first time using a cashew based sauce as my excuse for not going totally vegan was dairy!! But now I can safely cross over to the other side! If I can find more recipes like this…there really is no need for dairy in my life. And…I, too, found myself going for extra servings.

    • says

      Oh, I’m so happy that you enjoyed this! Grinning from ear to ear right now. I think you’ll enjoy an upcoming post where I share a recipe/method for non-dairy yogurt that can be further transformed into sour cream that tastes LEGIT. And I say that with confidence because I was the last person to think that I would ever have anything resembling “real” sour cream after giving up dairy. Stay tuned!

  7. says

    Hey Beth! Great post and I’m really enjoying your site!!! I’ll have to give this recipe a try because I CAN’T STAND making a million dishes when I’m trying to make something. And neither can my Fiance, who I typically try to convince that if I cook she cleans…. Never seems to work out that way. =)

    • says

      Hey, AJ! Thanks so much! Great to have you here. Seriously, if I ever have a million dollars, I will hire someone to stand in my kitchen and do dishes simultaneously while I cook. Like, they’ll just stand there waiting until a dish is dirty. I’d let them look at their iPad or something while they wait, though. Oh, right, back to reality. :) Let me know if you try the recipe!

  8. says

    I made this exactly to the recipe (other than using GF spiral pasta) and it was DELICIOUS! Husband and kids ate it up. I was careful to sidestep the fact that the sauce was mostly cauliflower until after they decided they liked it. :) This is the first cauliflower based sauce I have really liked. Other recipes always felt lacking in something. Highly recommend.

    • says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and that it filled the flavor gap! Very wise to wait to disclose the addition of cauliflower until after it had been pronounced tasty. :)

  9. says

    Made the sauce portion tonight and served it over spaghetti squash. It was wonderful! Excited to try more of your recipes. I really enjoy the photography on your site and the detailed shots that accompany each recipe. Great stuff!

  10. Andrea says

    Made this for dinner tonight, but used half the noodles and chopped and cooked up a head of cauliflower in with the noodles. Cauliflower overkill? Never. But the 2 and 3 year olds (and hubby) ate it up :) Thanks for the recipe.

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