I am not kidding, we must make this cheesy baked cauliflower about once a week in our house and have made this frequently for at least a year and a half now. It’s baked, super easy to make, only needs a few ingredients, a quick prep, 30 minutes in the oven and you will get this gooey, crunchy and cheesy goodness which you can share with your family. To us, it’s the perfect weeknight dinner. I, as a parent, am chuffed the kids are loading up with veggies, the kids are loving the cheesiness of this meal and it’s lovely and filling.
Plus, we have recently started making a quick tzatziki type dip (see the photo below) which I serve alongside this cheesy deliciousness. This yoghurt-based dip is perfect for cutting through the sticky cheesiness and it’s nice and refreshing as a dip or a drizzle over your baked cauliflower.
I find that my six year old son, who used to be a little hesitant eating the cauliflower on its own, has completely changed his mind now that he can dip it. Plus, eating with your fingers is a must and it’s a little messy – so there’s a lot to love about this meal for little ones too (and not just parents).
How does the cauliflower gets so cheesy?
Two things I really like about this cauliflower is how few ingredients this meal needs and that it is baked. You basically mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, while your oven is getting pre-heated, dump the whole lot into a baking tray and leave it to bake – in the meantime, you’re free to prepare your kids’ lunches for the next day at school, catch up on your emails or just relax (if you are so lucky on a weekday night).
The part which takes the longest in preparing the ingredients (but it is not hard) is to separate a head of cauliflower into florets. To do that, you can cut them with a knife or break them off with your hands. I always rinse the whole cauliflower head first too, then pat it dry with a paper towel as best I can. This helps ensure that your olive oil will adhere better, allowing the panko crumbs and cheese stick better too (though don’t expect perfection, folks).
The super cheesiness comes from the parmesan cheese (or pizza cheese, whichever you use) basically pooling around the bottom of this cauliflower florets. The reason why I warned you against expecting perfection is because while some of the crumb and cheese mixture will stay stuck on the top and sides of the cauliflower, the majority of it will fall. Gravity, you know. So, don’t expect golden cheesiness all over the top, like you would with a flat dish like pizza, when you take your dish out of the oven.
But, despite the rustic looks, I think you will be pleasantly surprised when you taste this – we all know that baked cauliflower is delicious on its own but adding panko crumbs (or bread crumbs, if you don’t have panko), a little bit of olive oil and cheese just transforms this simple dish into something quite addictive, even if I say so myself.
The beauty of this meal, at least to my mind, is the underbelly of the cauliflower which, as you can see in the image below, you can discover when you flip the cauliflower once it’s out of the oven and cool enough to handle.
You can see how, even though the tops of the cauliflower in the top right corner aren’t particularly golden or cheesy, their bottoms, shown through the middle (top left corner down to the right bottom corner) are just delightful.
These are the bits which my kids love and request as soon as they sit down to the table. My daughter especially is super fond of this meal and keeps asking me to put cauliflower on the shopping list, which I am very happy to do.
The recipe is slightly reminiscent of my Polish grandmother’s recipe – she used to bake or boil a whole head of cauliflower, and just before serving it, pour over melted butter and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. I still remember eating it as a young child – and yes, the butter and breadcrumbs made the cauliflower so so delicious. So if you have trouble getting your kids to eat cauliflower, try this!
Super cheesy baked cauliflower [five ingredients]
- 1 head cauliflower, outer leaves removed
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp garlic paste, or 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 90 g grated parmesan cheese or pizza cheese
- 45 g panko breadcrumbs
- Pre-heat your oven to 175C. Line a large baking tin with high-ish sides with baking paper and set aside.
- Wash the head of cauliflower under a running tap and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Break the cauliflower into florets, either by cutting around the base of them with a knife (be careful) or just using your fingers. You don't need to throw the base out – you can cut it into bite sized pieces and use it with the florets.
- Place the cauliflower florets into a large bowl.
- In a small measuring cup, measure out the olive oil and mix the garlic paste or minced garlic (whichever you're using) into the oil, using a fork until dispersed.
- Pour the garlic oil mixture over the cauliflower florets and mix the whole lot with your hands, making sure all florets have some oil on them (so that the crumbs and cheese adhere).
- Add the grated cheese and mix with your hands.
- Add the panko crumbs and again, mix it all together. If some of the crumbs and cheese don't stick to the cauliflower, that's ok.
- Pour out the whole lot from the bowl into the prepared baking tin. Toss the mixture about a little with your hands, making sure that the cheesy and crumb mixture is interspersed fairly evenly amongst the cauliflower florets, but no need to be overly perfectionist about it – it'll be ok.
- Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, take the baking tin out and let it cool for at least 10 minutes, until cool enough to eat, especially if you're feeding kids.
- Serve this with tzatziki or plain Greek yoghurt on the side (optional).
This recipe makes about 4 to 6 servings, depending on how hungry you are and if you’re eating with kids.
It’s also delightful cold if you happen to have any leftovers, or you can use your leftovers to top a salad. So good!
If you do have leftovers, pop them back into the oven for 10-15 minutes to crisp up again. I usually spread the cauliflower on a lined baking tray, turn the over to about 180-200C and pop the baking tray into the oven from cold. The cauliflower will warm up and crisp up as the oven is warming up, but make sure you check on it frequently so you don’t burn it. About 10-15 minutes should do, especially if the cauliflower is spread out in a single layer.
Microwaving leftovers is also an option if you’re in a rush but they end up being a bit floppy (still tasty though).
This recipe is only very lightly adapted from a fabulous recipe for Crunch parmesan cauliflower by Yumi Stynes, which you can find in her cookbook Zero F*cks Cooking – Endless Summer.