creamy cauliflower pasta bake

This creamy cauliflower pasta bake is a lightened up version of a classic mac and cheese. 

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //

The other day my favourite swimming goggles snapped just as I was getting ready to dive into the pool. I borrowed a pair from the lost and found, and then put my other pair of goggles into my swim bag.

My other pair of goggles, though exactly the same, are much darker, and I usually only use them in the summer when I swim in the outdoor pool. As soon as I dove into the indoor pool wearing them last week I thought, ohhhh, this isn’t going to work. They’re so dark I feel like I don’t know where I am. So dark it was almost panic inducing. So dark that I felt like I couldn’t hear, which sounds like a crazy thing to say about not being able to see well under water, but when I told Paul he knew exactly what I meant.

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //

I felt like I couldn’t do my workout. That I was so disoriented that if I put on my hand paddles I might smash into someone with them. It was such a bizarre feeling, and all I could do was a short and gentle swim and then get out of the dark and into the light.

It’s a little bit like the disorienting darkness of the Swedish winter. It catches me by surprise each year how wonky it makes me feel, and this year is apparently on track for record breaking darkness: so far this November we’ve had just two hours of sunlight. Two. Hours. Of. Sunlight.

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //

So I’ve ordered a new pair of my favourite goggles, have been burning through my own body weight in tea lights, and we’ve done like the Swedes and booked a sunny winter getaway – Paul and I are heading to Bali for Christmas. And increasingly we’re reaching for comfort food to bring a little warmth and light into our lives.

This pasta bake is just the kind of thing for these dark and dreary days. It’s warm, creamy, and soul satisfying. Yet it’s full of good thing. Whole grain spelt pasta. A sauce that’s more cauliflower than anything else. And that lovely crispy panko crust on top.

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //

I added florets of broccoli before baking, which makes this into a cruciferous vegetable bomb when you consider the entire head of cauliflower already in there. If you’re not into broccoli you could leave it out, or sub in some chopped tomatoes or chunks of butternut squash instead. And if you’re dealing with picky eaters and worried they’ll be on to your cauliflower sauce trick, well, maybe they will and maybe they won’t be. I didn’t tell Paul what was in this and he loved it, so if that’s any indication you should be in good shape.

MM_Know_Icon_FINALCauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is a great source of vitamin B5, potassium, dietary fiber, and a good source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins B1-3, and iron.

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //

Two years ago: Grated Apple and Yoghurt Breakfast Bowl (I’ve been loving this for breakfast lately)
Four years ago: No Sugar Banana Bran Muffins (The best! Seriously, give these a try!)

creamy cauliflower pasta bake //
4.5 from 6 votes

creamy cauliflower pasta bake

This creamy cauliflower pasta bake is a lightened up version of a classic mac and cheese.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 -6
Author Katie Trant


  • 1 medium cauliflower rinsed, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 300 g spelt or whole wheat pasta shells
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese or other strong cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head broccoli broken down into small florets
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F. Butter a 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and salt it generously. This is the water you’ll cook both the cauliflower and the pasta in, so don’t toss it out between uses!
  3. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook until it is very tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the cauliflower from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place into a blender or food processor.
  5. Add the pasta shells to the boiling water (top up the water if necessary) and cook until it’s about half way done (it’ll finish cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta and place into the prepared baking dish along with the broccoli florets.
  6. Blend the cooked cauliflower with 2 cups of vegetable stock, the olive oil, cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, and some freshly cracked black pepper. If the sauce seems too thick you can add the remaining ½ cup of vegetable stock.
  7. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
  8. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli. It may seem like a LOT of sauce, but it will thicken as it cooks and the pasta will absorb some as well.
  9. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs.
  10. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake until the pasta is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  11. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

-You can make the pasta and sauce up to a day in advance and keep it chilled, unbaked, in the fridge. Allow to return to room temperature before you place it in the oven, or bake from cold and add about 10 minutes to the baking time.
-Recipe adapted ever so slightly from the Food Matters Cookbook.


creamy cauliflower pasta bake //




  1. Kimberly Adkison says

    This is the best! My kids love it and it is so easy and satisfying. On regular dinner rotation in our house. Thanks Katie.

  2. Rhonda says

    I loved this dish. I added some whole garlic cloves (6 in fact) to the cauliflower as it was cooking and blitzed it all together. I might try adding a couple of (halved) shallots next time. I did not have broccoli so added frozen broad beans and peas. And I did not have bread crumbs so I crushed some mini wheetabix which worked fine (surprisingly). I only added 2 cups of stock but it definitely needs that extra 1/2 cup. Lovely recipe! Many thanks for sharing it. I have leftovers for this evening! mmmm……

    • Katie Trant says

      So glad you liked it, Rhonda! I think that adding in pretty much any vegetable will do. I love adding diced tomatoes and onions. I never would have thought crushed weetabix would work, but good to know it’ll turn out in a pinch!

  3. Kimberly says

    I completely understand the lack of sunlight ordeal you’re going through, being from northern Alaska. I just have to commit to getting outside at some point during our 3 hours of daylight no matter the temperature (often minus 30 to 40 below zero). Thank you so much for this recipe. The entire family, including the committed carnivores, loved this dish. I added tomatoes because that’s what I had and they worked great. No one could believe the sauce was primarily cauliflower, which my kids say they don’t like!

    • Katie Trant says

      Oh yeah, you feel my arctic circle winter pain! But the payback in the summer is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Glad your family loved this dish so much! I made it without telling my husband the sauce was cauliflower and he totally love it. Such a versatile veggie!

  4. Deena Kakaya says

    Now this is something that I definitely need to make! Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are syonymous with this season for me and I do love cheese; your lightened up version encorages me to enjoy it in a more virtuous way x

  5. Jess says

    Oh my gosh, I feel so guilty for complaining about our Washington weather recently… This pasta bake looks delicious though, I can’t wait to try it!

    • Katie Trant says

      The weather here has actually been very mild, I’m still biking to work and we haven’t had any snow or ice. But a good dumping of snow would really brighten things up so I’m hoping it comes soon!

    • Katie Trant says

      Right? It’s the same but opposite when I’m driving and looking for an address and have to turn the music down so I can see better. Amazing how our senses work together!

  6. Anne T. says

    Two hours of sunlight?? Now I feel guilty for whining about our early November sunsets in Colorado. This is a great recipe; I made it tonight using some Brussels sprouts that I had in the fridge as a substitute for the broccoli. It’s delicious, filling, and definitely made up for the cold tonight.

    Love your blog, Katie!

    • Katie Trant says

      Yep, just two. It’s crazy! But that’s what we get for living so close to the arctic circle, and there is a tradeoff in the summer when we get the midnight sun. Brussels sprouts sound like a lovely addition to this dish. Still a cruciferous bomb, and lots of vitamin K!

  7. Cammy says

    Two words (well, one compound word): backstroke. Its low level in terms of cardio but I find it’s an amazing little core strengthener. Then you will appreciate those dark goggles as it’s nothing but staring up at florescent lights.

  8. Linda @ Veganosity says

    I LOVE cauliflower sauce!! I add nutritional food yeast to give it a cheesy flavor. In fact, I just made a similar dish for dinner last week.

    2 hours of sunlight!?! I’m sorry. That’s rough, but Bali sounds like a dream. 🙂

  9. claire nicol says

    Hi Katie
    A wonderful recipe! Thanks! I will be looking to you for guidence here as The Beloved has heart issues and is running on only “1 good coffee filter” as a result of the kidney cancer. Low/no salt, low potassium, not too much protein. Then our naturopath says no dairy , no grains and no suger. And now I’m having a crisis of conscience when look at meat.
    So! I am (now more then ever) a fan.
    Cheers Katie

    • Marion says

      This recipe sounds delicious, and one I want to try soon! When do you add the cheddar cheese? Do you add it to the sauce that you pour over the pasta and broccoli? Thanks, Katie!

    • Katie Trant says

      Hi Claire! Sorry to hear there are so many health issues going on. You should check out my friend Kellie’s blog ( she’s a cancer nutrition educator and posts wonderful recipes. Sounds like you’ve got a challenge ahead of you to figure out mealtime with these new restrictions – email me if you want help.

  10. Kathryn says

    Two hours of sunshine?! That’s just insane. I think I’d definitely follow suit and be booking a trip to Bali if I lived in Sweden too.

    • Katie Trant says

      It is insane! And it’s why half of Sweden goes to Thailand for Christmas (seriously, we went there a couple of years ago and there was Swedish signage in many of the places we went) but we thought we’d try something different this year.

    • Katie Trant says

      Really looking forward to Bali! It’s so necessary to offset the 2 hours of sunlight we’ve had so far this month! Really hoping for a good dumping of snow to come along and brighten this place up!


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