Happy Friday! Working to get back into the swing of posting.
After a long week, today was one of those days. When not throwing a tantrum or running from me, my toddler kept taking things away from the baby, making her scream and cry. Neither napped very long which led to a fun afternoon of crankiness for all parties (myself included). When 5:30pm rolled around, I had no motivation or energy left and the fridge was pretty bare (grocery shopping will happen tomorrow or Sunday). As there was no one else around to make dinner (too bad!), I still needed to figure something out before my husband and stepdaughter got home around 6:45pm.
On nights like this, breakfast-for-dinner or pizza are our typical go-to meals. Since we went the breakfast-for-dinner route last night (pancakes, bacon, and watermelon – it was another one of those days!) and pizza didn’t sound very good, I knew I’d have to dig a little deeper. Pasta is another meal that generally goes over well, so I figured I’d use that as a base.
For sauce, since jarred sauce isn’t liked by everyone and my husband and stepdaughter wouldn’t want as many veggies as I like mixed in (but I didn’t want to go the plain pasta route), I figured I’d have to get a little creative. I had plenty of garlic and an extra head of cauliflower that I had bought at the grocery store last weekend but hadn’t yet been used, so I thought I could pair those with some cheese to make a decent meal that everyone would eat.
What resulted was pasta with a pureed roasted garlic and cauliflower sauce with melted cheese on top, served with peas (frozen and microwaved – I keep frozen veggies in the freezer for nights like this when all of the fresh stuff is gone; peas are one that everyone will eat). The pasta turned out really tasty and was easy to tweak for my toddler who loves pasta but is allergic to dairy (or for a vegan version; this would also be easy to make gluten-free if you used a gluten-free pasta). I’d say this meal scored 1 for mom!
Cheesy roasted garlic and cauliflower pasta
Total prep and cook time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Dried pasta – 16 oz box (use gluten-free variety if you want to make gluten-free)
Garlic – 1 head
Cauliflower – 1 head cut into florets
Grated cheese – 1 C (mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, etc. – whatever you have on hand; if vegan version or allergic to dairy, use vegan cheese or omit)
Milk – 1 C (or non-dairy milk if vegan version or allergic to dairy)
EVOO – 2 T plus more for drizzling on garlic
Parsley – handful, chopped (optional)
Bread crumbs – handful (optional; omit if gluten-free)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove outer layers of garlic bulb skin and then cut ~1/4 inch off the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with EVOO, wrap tightly in foil, and place on baking sheet in the oven. Roast until the cloves are soft, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on (will need to melt the cheese at the end).
2. Fill a large pot with water and a couple of good pinches of salt. Bring to a boil.
3. Cut the cauliflower into florets: remove the leaves from the head of cauliflower, cut into quarters, remove the central stem portion, and break into small florets (more details on how to cut up cauliflower here). Once cut up and washed, drop into the boiling water and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and set aside.
4. Return the water to a boil (add more if a lot has boiled off) and then cook the pasta according to the directions on the box until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
5. In a blender or food processor (may need to do in 2 batches, depending on the size of your machine), puree the cooked cauliflower, roasted garlic (squeeze soft cloves out of head and discard the skins), 2 T EVOO, and milk. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time until you like the consistency of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta and sauce. If you’re feeling fancy, dump in a handful of chopped parsley. Pour the pasta mixture into a greased baking dish and top with cheese and bread crumbs (if using). Bake in the oven uncovered until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (10-15 minutes).
*The pasta could also be made in advance and then refrigerated (do everything through step 6 until baking). Heat covered for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees F; uncover for last 10 minutes to lightly brown top before serving.