Cheesy Whole Roasted Cauliflower – Simple side or main dish vegetarian option with deep, complex flavor from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Baked cauliflower is a favorite among vegetable side dishes in our house. And living with two teens there are always demands for more intense flavor as well as variety. So in order to satisfy such a tough crowd I partnered with Parmigiano Reggiano for a sponsored post and made this REAL cheesy whole roasted cauliflower dish.
Besides absolutely nailing the requests from my kids, this dish addresses a major pet peeve of mine – food waste.
If you followed my food journey as detailed on the blog, you’d know that making the ultimate roasted cauliflower is my pet project. The reality is I will never perfect it, which is beside the point. In my strive for perfection I will create some tasty, flavorful cauliflower dishes. Now there will be a few misses but I’m cool with that.
Cauliflower because of its blandness works with just about any flavor. Previous recipes have featured jerk spice, fennel, citrus, etc. but never cheese until now. One of my favorite things to eat is cacio e pepe which is an incredibly simple dish featuring pasta, cheese, and black pepper; few ingredients but when executed properly is the best thing you’ll ever eat. Cacio e pepe was the influence behind this dish. The recipe consists primarily of cauliflower, pepper, and a heavy dose of Parmigiano Reggiano.
My trick to ensuring a well seasoned cauliflower inside and out is to poach the cauliflower first. The poaching liquid actually infuses the interior of the cauliflower with flavor. I made a cheese broth using one of those best kept secret ingredients – the rind from a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Those rich, aged notes add flavor complexity, so by poaching the cauliflower in a cheese broth base liquid I was able to get the intensely rich flavor of the Parmigiano Reggiano inside it.
Next came the easy part, I.e. getting that cheesy goodness on the exterior. The Parmigiano Reggiano works as the finishing ingredient. About 10 minutes prior to finishing baking in the oven I sprinkled a layer of cheese. Feel free to put as much or as little cheese as you prefer, but either way your end dish will be both intensely aromatic and flavored with that sharp, nutty taste.
Is Parmesan the same as Parmigiano Reggiano?
Though sharing a few similarities they are actually two distinctly different cheeses. Parmigiano Reggiano is highly regulated. It can only come from the Parma region of northern Italy and is required by law to have only three ingredients – cow’s milk, salt, and the enzyme rennet. It’s aging process leads to a harder cheese that’s darker in color and much sharper in flavor relative to parmesan. It’s because of that sharper, stronger flavor I used parmigiano reggiano to make this whole roasted cauliflower.
What are other uses for the rind?
Admittedly, I sometimes buy aged cheese for the rind. I’ve noticed recently my local grocery store actually sells packaged rinds which is like Christmas for me. Back in the day when we started our fellas monthly wine tasting group, I’d hoard all the left over cheese rinds. When I inevitably got those strange looks I tried to explain that I used them to flavor olive oil or broths which only added to the confusion. So I just conceded and used the composting excuse. Maybe you’re more open than my fellas crew and can see how the rinds would make a great flavoring agent. Here are a few uses to consider instead of throwing away those rinds. Just remember to remove the rind before serving the dish.
- Throw them into tomato sauce when cooking.
- Infuse olive oil by placing the rinds in a jar, then pour olive oil over them and let sit.
- Add to bean soups or Minestrone.
Are there health benefits to Parmigiano Reggiano?
The long aging process provides many different benefits including the fact that Parmigiano Reggiona is easily digestible as the aging breaks down much of the protein present. Similarly, despite being a dairy product, Parmigiano Reggiano is rendered lactose-free through aging..
Cheesy Baked Cauliflower
If you make this delicious cheesy whole roasted cauliflower recipe made with Parmigiano Reggiano, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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For the Broth
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 9 cups of water
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rinds
- Fresh Thyme
- Fresh Parsley
For the cauliflower
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- Black pepper and kosher salt to taste
- 2 pound head cauliflower leaves trimmed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Make the cheese broth
- Heat large sauce pan on medium. Add olive oil and then saute garlic 2 minutes.
- Add water and wine then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer then add cheese rinds and herbs. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest a few minutes. Strain broth using a fine mesh sieve and reserve broth.
Make the Cauliflower
- Heat the oven to 475 degrees F with rack in the middle position.
- In a large pot, bring 8 cups of the broth to a boil. Add 1/2 cup salt then lower in the cauliflower.
- Cook for 5 minutes EXACTLY starting from the time you drop the cauliflower into the pot. Flip the cauliflower with a large spoon after the first two minutes.
- Transfer the cauliflower stem side down to a colander and drain for 10 minutes.
- Transfer cauliflower stem side down to a baking dish. Rub the top with oil and sprinkle with black pepper and kosher salt.
- Roast, rotating the dish once or twice. Spoon any oil drippings over the cauliflower until the cauliflower browns and a knife/metal skewer when inserted to the center meets no resistance roughly 25 minutes. After 20 minutes of cooking remove the cauliflower from the oven and top with the grated cheese. Return cauliflower back to oven and finish cooking.
- Let cool for five minutes before serving.