Catching up on some previous weeks' dishes so I hope to post more often over the next week or two.
I am not one to be drawn in by heavy comfort food often but this dish won me over both because it didn't involve terrifying amounts of cheese and cream and because it did involve terrifying amounts of crucifers. And, well, I am kind of a broken record about how much I love me some crucifer. The ham lent a smoky depth to this otherwise and sweet dish but it's easy to omit the ham and still make it a scrumptious vegetarian meal. If you are looking for a vegan option, this one is on my "to make" list soon.
The dish was fragrant, filling and satisfying. I also felt a teeny bit smug about the fact that even if kids wound up picking around the chunks, they would still be getting a belly full of cauliflower and not just noodles. I served this with a crusty baguette to soak up the sauce and a green salad topped with oranges, grapefruit and radish.
Baked Spirals and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, February 2012)
9 cups cauliflower (2 large heads or 3 small), cored and chopped
1 head of garlic (yes, head!), roughly chopped
12 shallots, roughly chopped
Salt n' Peppa
1/4 cup flour
12 cups skim milk
3/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
18 oz pecorino cheese, grated (about 6 cups)
1 1/2 lbs whole grain pasta spirals (I used 2 bags of noodles which seemed to be more than enough)
3/4 lb sliced smoked ham (I am a fan of Willow Creek Farm's sliced ham and it was perfect in this dish)
2 heads broccoli (roughly 15 cups), trimmed and cut into florets
1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs (recipe called for panko, but I have homemade breadcrumbs that I used)
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, shallots, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour, stir to coat well.
2. Gradually stir in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; gently simmer until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 min. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree with nutmeg and half the pecorino until smooth, about 2 minutes (I did this in four batches since it's a large amount of sauce).
3. Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Drain well, return to pot. Add ham, broccoli and cauliflower sauce and toss to combine. Transfer to 3 3 1/2 quart baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino and bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Heat the broiler and broil until golden on top, 1-2 minutes. Divide among dishes, top with toasted breadcrumbs and enjoy.