If you’re trying to find a way to love cauliflower…make this Cauliflower and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs. Trust me, this cheesy cauliflower is delicious. Oven-roasted cauliflower florets tossed in a creamy cheese sauce seasoned with a dash of chili powder and served up “stove-top mac and cheese” style. Finish off these cheesy cauliflower florets with spicy, salty, prosciutto bread crumbs for a dinner that’s mouth-wateringly delicious. Best for nights when you’re craving something cozy, but want something healthier too.
This is a recipe I wasn’t expecting to be so excited about. Because let’s be real, who really needs yet another cauliflower recipe, I mean, right?
It’s true, I think cauliflower has been a little overdone in the last few years, but regardless I still find it delicious and always so versatile. It can be used in so many different ways. And while it’s definitely had its “moment” over the last couple of years, it has still maintained its prominence and is loved by many.
Plus, I think this might just be my favorite cauliflower recipe yet. That’s kind of a bold thing to say, but I’ve never done a cheesy cauliflower recipe. Now that I have, I’m more than into it. Clearly, I’m excited. Forgive the dramatics.
Here is the story.
Truth is that I’ve had this recipe planned for September for over a month now. I’ve gone to make it more than a handful of times, but then stopped myself because I was convinced that no one really needed, or wanted, another cauliflower recipe.
So I just kept putting this off and pushing the recipe to the back of my thoughts.
Until last week. I’ve been pressed for time before the family heads to Cleveland for my cousin’s wedding. With so much to do, I decided to just send a list of recipes off to my mom to have her pick a few favorites for me to test. Sometimes I can go back and forth on ideas for way too long. When this happens I ask others what sounds good. And then I stop second-guessing and I just start creating.
My mom sent back my list of recipes in order of her favorites. Shockingly this was at the top of her list. So, I did what I do…
I second-guessed again and almost didn’t make this, but then I asked my cousin. She said the very same thing as my mom. And from that point, I said no to myself on second-guessing anymore, and started working on this recipe.
Once I had the full recipe written out in my notebook, I too was excited. I had a good feeling, I just knew this had to be good.
And you guys? This IS good…so very good.
Cauliflower and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs…the details.
Start with the cauliflower. Working on a sheet pan, toss the florets with some olive and a pinch of paprika. I love the smoky flavor and added color the paprika give, so don’t skimp on it. Push the cauliflower to the side. Then add the bread and the prosciutto for the spicy breadcrumbs to the other side of the pan.
Bake everything until the florets are tender and the prosciutto is extra crispy. The key is to not overcook the cauliflower. You want it tender and crisp, but not mushy.
Once the bread is toasted and that prosciutto is crisp, pulse the mix into crumbs using a food processor or simply crumble with your fingers. Now add a good pinch of red pepper flakes. If you’re a vegetarian, you can just omit the prosciutto. No big deal.
Now, I know the breadcrumbs are a bit of an “extra”, but in my opinion, they’re an extra that’s worth it. Salty prosciutto breadcrumbs are the perfect topping to this cheesy pasta.
While the florets are roasting, make the cheese sauce.
It’s simple, but not your average cheese sauce. I love to make mine with a bit of chipotle chili powder for some heat. I then add sharp cheddar cheese and creamy gouda cheese for the perfect, melty, cheesy sauce.
By this time the cauliflower should be done, so toss it in with the sauce. Immediately you’ll see delicious things happening. The cheese sauce clings to the florets, and your nose takes in subtle scents of chili powder and fresh herbs. And cheese. But I can’t think of how to describe how cheese really smells. It just smells really good, you know?
Serve up this classic style, “stove-top mac and cheese”, warm right out of the skillet. And with a very generous sprinkle of those spicy crumbs.
Oh so very delicious. Cheesy, perfectly spicy, a little salty, but also light and herby too. All the very good things served up in one skillet.
It’s such a great warming vegetable-focused meal or hearty side dish. It’s also on the healthier side. It’s a nice switch up from the classic mac and cheese.
And if you’re trying to get your kids, your husband…anyone really, to eat more vegetables, this is the recipe to make. All my picky eating brothers agree.
Looking for other cozy, but healthy vegetarian dinners? Here are a few ideas:
Lastly, if you make this cauliflower and cheese with spicy breadcrumbs be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Cauliflower and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs
Calories Per Serving: 493 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 ounces prosciutto (omit if vegetarian)
- 1 cup finely torn ciabatta or sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
- 1/2-1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder to your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded gouda cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. On a baking sheet, toss the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Push the cauliflower to one side of the pan. On the other side, toss the bread, with 2 tablespoons olive oil, oregano, and a pinch of salt. Lay the prosciutto around the bread. 2. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the prosciutto is crisp. Remove from the oven, then remove the bread and prosciutto. Return the cauliflower to the oven and bake another 5-10 minutes, until just tender. 3. Crumble the bread/prosciutto into fine crumbs using your fingers or pulse in a food processor. Toss with red pepper flakes. Set aside.4. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, chipotle chili powder, and onion powder. Cook 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil. Stir in the cheeses. Add the cauliflower and toss. Cook another 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme. 5. Serve the cauliflower topped with breadcrumbs. Eat and enjoy the deliciousness 🙂