This hearty Roasted Cauliflower Bolognese is the kind of cozy winter recipe we all need right now. Fresh pasta tossed with spicy cauliflower in a tomato pesto Bolognese that’s creamy and so delicious! The secret to this vegetarian Bolognese sauce? It’s seasoned-up with roasted cauliflower “meat”. The cauliflower has the best flavor, and roasting it in the oven gives it the PERFECT texture. Everyone LOVES a GOOD tomato Bolognese sauce, it’s delicious and it looks pretty on any table. Fancy enough for the weekend, but easy enough to make any night of the week. And most importantly, so delicious!
It’s pasta Bolognese…just minus the meat and plus a whole lot of delicious seasoned-up roasted cauliflower. Not traditional, but SO GOOD.
My brothers are 100% rolling their eyes at this pasta. They love a Bolognese sauce, but a Bolognese sauce minus the meat. Man, the look on their faces. So much disappointment…
They don’t know what they’re missing out on. Every last twirl of this vegetarian pasta Bolognese is delicious. My secret is to roast the cauliflower. Oven roasting the cauliflower gives it so much flavor, plus that perfect crisp, yet tender texture. It’s so delicious.
Here’s the story.
Honestly, this one came to be in an interesting way. I set out to make a white sauce pasta and by the end of the day, I had this. My hang up on the white sauce pasta was simple. With Valentines Day on Sunday I was getting hung up on the fact that white pasta just didn’t feel right for v-day. Sure it still would have been delicious, but something red felt like the better route.
So, I went back and forth on ideas. I started to make another pasta and then about five minutes in, I changed course again and started in on this. The idea kind of just flew into my head. I wanted to make a hearty Bolognese sauce, but I had zero meat on hand. I also really, really wanted to use up the heads of cauliflower I had in my fridge.
So, I put the two ambitions together and came up with this. A perfect, hearty vegetarian cauliflower pasta Bolognese. I don’t understand how my brain works, but I’m pretty excited it thought this one up.
Now, onto the process.
Start with the cauliflower…which is the heart of this recipe.
I wanted the cauliflower to have just the right texture. Often times when cauliflower is stirred into a sauce I find that it tends to be soggy and flavorless. So I really wanted to avoid that. The key? Oven roasting the cauliflower with lots of garlic and spices. By the time it comes out of the oven, it’s extra crispy with just the right amount of char and so much flavor.
It holds up perfectly in this sauce creating a “meaty” texture and even better flavor. My secret ingredient? A splash of fish sauce, which is optional, but it adds an umami, meaty flavor.
While the cauliflower is roasting, start in on the tomato sauce. You want to slowly caramelize the garlic in olive oil to really infuse flavor into a recipe, especially within an Italian-style red sauce. Once the garlic is extra fragrant and turns golden, I like to stir in the tomato paste and chili flakes. Then cook those for a bit to help intensify the flavors in the sauce.
Once that’s cooked for a bit, stir in the basil pesto. Then let the sauce simmer while you boil the pasta.
For the pasta, I used a fresh cut tagliatelle pasta. But use any cut of pasta you love or have on hand. You’ll want to first boil off the pasta, then just before draining, reserve some of the pasta cooking water. This step is so important, so be sure to not dump the water before reserving a cup. The pasta water is used to finish the sauce
Once the pasta is cooked, toss it with the sauce and that pasta water. Add the cauliflower and some butter and toss until the sauce is very creamy. Stir in the parmesan and basil. Immediately the heat from the pasta intensifies the smell of the basil…leaving you with nothing but excitement for dinner and a kitchen that smells amazing.
And trust me, you should be excited. Every bowl of this pasta is rich, creamy, just oh so slightly spicy, with a subtle pesto touch, and just the right amount of butter and cheese.
It’s is so very good. Like roll your eyes back, go for that second bowl, and finish the pasta all in one sitting GOOD…yum!
Perfect dinner to serve this Sunday for Valentine’s Day…whether you’re celebrating or not. It’s a little different, but so, so good.
The cauliflower is a game-changer. The flavor is intense, but the texture and seasoning are spot-on. It adds a saltiness that keeps everyone coming back for another bowl. Just add a little side salad, and maybe even some bread, and you’ll have a perfectly delicious meal.
Looking for more Valentine’s Day dinners? Here are a few to try:
Lastly, if you make this Roasted Cauliflower Bolognese, 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!
Roasted Cauliflower Bolognese
Calories Per Serving: 459 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- 1 large head cauliflower, finely chopped (about 5 cups chopped)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 pinch each kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 Fresno chile pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
- 1 pound pasta, any cut
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
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- 1. Preheat oven to 425° F. On a baking sheet, combine the cauliflower, 3 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, fennel seeds, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Toss well to evenly coat. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until tender. Add the 2 cloves garlic and fish sauce. Roast another 10 minutes, until charred.2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallot, Fresno, and garlic. Cook until the shallots begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomato paste, cook 4-5 minutes until thickened. Stir in 1/3 cup water, cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, remove 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain.4. To the sauce, add the pasta, cauliflower, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and the butter, tossing until the butter has melted. Add the Parmesan and basil. If needed, thin the sauce with additional pasta cooking water.5. Divide the pasta among plates and top with basil and cheese. Enjoy!