I hate dishes. Is hate too strong a word? Nope. I hate them. But they are a necessary evil, and Mrs. Weasley keeps ignoring my invitation to come stay in our spare bedroom (Nerd Alert!). I recognize the seeming conflict between being a food blogger and my distaste for dishes. But if you love something enough, it can cancel out (or at least displace) the negative stuff. Also, my husband does way more dishes than me, for which I am supremely grateful.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to minimizing the dishes required for a recipe, and this pasta bake is the perfect example. It requires one pot, a blender or food processor, and a baking dish. The method involved also saves time by using the same pot for multiple steps that would typically be completed separately. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Cauliflower and cashews come together to make a creamy and delicious sauce, while remaining skinny jean friendly. If you want to make it even lighter, you can leave the cashews out (see recipe notes). I recommend them for that luscious mouthfeel, but it’s still super tasty without. I feel really weird about that last sentence. Moving on…
To get started, put a big pot of water on to boil. Next, perform core removal surgery on your cauliflower. The basic idea is to run a knife around the core, then pop it out. Is it just me, or does de-cored cauliflower look a little like brain? Sorry, I know that’s not very appetizing, I just call it like I see it.
Next, break the cauliflower into large florets. Keeping them around the same size helps them cook evenly and leaving them large makes it easy to strain them out of the boiling water when they’re done cooking. I present to you, Florets of Cauliflower.
Add the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves to the boiling water. TIP! Adding the garlic to the boiling water mellows it out and eliminates the need to cook it in a separate pan. I do this when making any blended sauce with garlic as an ingredient, or when making mashed potatoes. Once cooked, take the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves out with any utensil that strains (slotted spoon, spider, or small fine-mesh strainer), and add them to a blender or food processor. By the way, boiling the cashews eliminates the need to soak them. Yay! Now add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it’s ready. Only you will know when that is. Just kidding, follow the directions on the pasta package.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the blender or food processor, and puree the bejeezus out of it until it is creamy and saucy and wonderful. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top and mix to combine.
Once you have mixed that saucy wonderfulness into the pasta, top it with whatever crunchy topping your heart desires. If you happen to have some Nooch-Its handy, crush them into fine crumbs and add them to the top. You will not be disappointed.
Bake until the topping is browned in spots, and then shovel enormous spoonfuls into your face. It would probably be a good idea to wait for it to cool down first. You know best.
Get your cauliflower on! (I am such a dork).
Cauliflower Cashew Pasta Bake
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups unsweetened plain non-dairy milk (or water)
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
- 16 ounces macaroni or other pasta shape (I used whole grain pasta (but gluten-free works great too))
- 1 cup bread crumbs or crushed crackers of choice for topping (I used Nooch-Its)
- Put a large pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash cauliflower and trim off outer leaves. With a small knife, carve out the core. Break the cauliflower into large florets.
- Add the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic cloves into the boiling water, and cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Using a straining utensil, remove the cauliflower, cashews, and garlic, and add to a blender or food processor.
- Add the pasta into the boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package.
- Add all remaining ingredients except the breadcrumbs to the blender or food processor and puree until creamy. Start with 1 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk or water, and add up to 1/2 cup more if the sauce seems too thick. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to a 9 x 13 baking dish or equivalent. Add the sauce and mix to combine. Top with breadcrumbs and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. If the topping is not browned on top, place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown.
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Kim Bradbury says
Can’t wait to make this! I made a similar dish recently that didn’t include cashews and it lacked the luscious mouthfeel you talked about.
Let me know if you make it, Mom! Or, I guess I could be persuaded to make it for you. 🙂
Erin Jean says
Looks delicious. Nooch-its on top is a great idea. 🙂
You have emerged as my go-to recipe tester, so let me know how you like it! 🙂
Anne|Craving Something Healthy says
Hi Beth! So glad your blog is finally live 🙂 I’m on a cauliflower kick lately, so can’t wait to try this!
Thanks, Anne! You and me both. 🙂 Please let me know if you try this!
Hannah Elizabeth says
I’m sure we’d be a phenomenal team in the kitchen, Beth, as I don’t mind doing dishes…I kind of like it actually. 😛
This sauce sounds amazing, and cauliflower and cashews are two of my favorite “secret” ingredients. In fact, I’ve made several different sauces based on cauliflower and I love them all!! Funny, I’ve been thinking of marrying my two favorite secret weapons in a killer sauce, so I now I *REALLY* need to make it a priority now :P…so creamy and tempting…I can’t wait!! 😉
Well, Hannah, I have you on record now. During our upcoming visit together you can do all the dishes your heart desires. 🙂 Can’t wait to cook and photograph together!
This looks awesome girl! Those photos–stunning:)
Thanks, Cara! I’m flattered. 🙂 Glad to have you here!
cauliflower isn’t really my jam but mac and cheese? I’m thinking this is something I could love very much. Can’t wait to see more!
Making this for dinner tonight….keep those recipes coming! This sounds similar to my vegan mac n’ cheese, but I usually use cashew/nut. yeast for the sauce, so I am looking forward to trying it with the cauliflower! I will let you know how it goes! 🙂
Maybe I’ll make the pancakes for breakfast in the morning, too! 🙂
Emma's Little Kitchen says
This looks great Beth! Making it for dinner next week… yum 🙂
Hi, Emma! Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know how it turns out for you! Also, I checked out your blog, love it!
Ok, so I finally got a chance to make this and we really liked it! I like the fact that I can use cauliflower for the sauce and cut the calories and fat by quite alot from my cashew sauce that I normally make. SO YAY! Anna really liked it! Of course, we may have made up for the calories saved by having a big helping of seconds, so there you go! 🙂
I haven’t made the pancakes yet, but thinking about having breakfast for dinner tonight! 😉 Yum!
Oh, I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! 🙂 It makes me so happy that you are a) trying the recipes, and b) liking them. I like the creaminess that the cashews add, and I agree, having the sauce based on cashews alone is not only spendy calorie-wise, but wallet-wise!
This was PHENOMENAL … my first time using a cashew based sauce as my excuse for not going totally vegan was dairy!! But now I can safely cross over to the other side! If I can find more recipes like this…there really is no need for dairy in my life. And…I, too, found myself going for extra servings.
Oh, I’m so happy that you enjoyed this! Grinning from ear to ear right now. I think you’ll enjoy an upcoming post where I share a recipe/method for non-dairy yogurt that can be further transformed into sour cream that tastes LEGIT. And I say that with confidence because I was the last person to think that I would ever have anything resembling “real” sour cream after giving up dairy. Stay tuned!
AJ @ Hungry-Kitchen says
Hey Beth! Great post and I’m really enjoying your site!!! I’ll have to give this recipe a try because I CAN’T STAND making a million dishes when I’m trying to make something. And neither can my Fiance, who I typically try to convince that if I cook she cleans…. Never seems to work out that way. =)
Hey, AJ! Thanks so much! Great to have you here. Seriously, if I ever have a million dollars, I will hire someone to stand in my kitchen and do dishes simultaneously while I cook. Like, they’ll just stand there waiting until a dish is dirty. I’d let them look at their iPad or something while they wait, though. Oh, right, back to reality. 🙂 Let me know if you try the recipe!
Erin Jean says
I made this exactly to the recipe (other than using GF spiral pasta) and it was DELICIOUS! Husband and kids ate it up. I was careful to sidestep the fact that the sauce was mostly cauliflower until after they decided they liked it. 🙂 This is the first cauliflower based sauce I have really liked. Other recipes always felt lacking in something. Highly recommend.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and that it filled the flavor gap! Very wise to wait to disclose the addition of cauliflower until after it had been pronounced tasty. 🙂
Gorgeous recipe, I’ve included it on my vegan mofo round of of vegan recipes on participating blogs 🙂
Noah Edwards says
Made the sauce portion tonight and served it over spaghetti squash. It was wonderful! Excited to try more of your recipes. I really enjoy the photography on your site and the detailed shots that accompany each recipe. Great stuff!
can i make this without the yeast? My friend is allergic :o(
Hi Jenny! Absolutely, this can be made without the nutritional yeast. Let me know how it goes for you! 🙂
Made this for dinner tonight, but used half the noodles and chopped and cooked up a head of cauliflower in with the noodles. Cauliflower overkill? Never. But the 2 and 3 year olds (and hubby) ate it up 🙂 Thanks for the recipe.
Beth I am not a vegan but thought i’d give it a try. a few notes, i used walnuts b/c i didn’t have cashews and i used Silk unsweetened almond milk. i thought the almond milk added an element of sweetness i didn’t care for (I like things sweet or savory but not both, personal preference) so i’d use water (or real milk) next time. i also thought it needed a touch of fat so i added a little olive oil. it reminds me a little of hummus and while i didn’t try it, i also think some chick peas might add a nice flavor. thanks for the ideas!!
Other Beth (as in not the author Beth) says
Did you use unflavored almond milk or vanilla almond milk? Even if it’s unsweetened, I find that the vanilla flavored milk adds something that doesn’t always work well in savory dishes.
Hi “Other Beth!” 🙂 – I always use plain, unflavored almond milk, as you’re exactly right, the vanilla flavor would come through, and not in a nice way. 🙂
Jordasche Kingston says
That looks extremely good! I eat way too much pasta, so I’m going to try the spaghetti squash noodle route. I’ll definitely be trying it out with your sauce, I too, really love cauliflower. Thank you so much for sharing!
Emily Kathryn Roth says
I have no idea where to find nutritional yeast. I hear about it a lot, but it’s in NO grocery stores 🙁 Where can I find it please?
Hi Emily! I’m so sorry you’re having trouble finding nutritional yeast. Do you have any health food stores in your area, or do any of your grocery stores have a “natural foods” section? You might find it there. But rather than go on a wild goose chase, I would definitely recommend ordering it on Amazon – I checked prices (per ounce) for 3 popular brands and Bob’s Red Mill was the most affordable, and the 8oz. package should last you quite a while. I hope that helps! 🙂
We made the recipe but found it too dry after being in the oven 15 min. The recipe was very good BEFORE it went in the oven and the bread crumbs didn’t brown so needed 1 or 2 min. under the broiler (as you suggested). If we make this again, we’d skip the oven and plain breadcrumbs and serve after mixing the pasta.
Thank you for sharing your feedback! I’m discovering that different types of pasta absorb the liquid more readily, which can make the baked version more or less dry as you found. I might amend the recipe to make more sauce to avoid the dry factor. Thanks again!
Kate Garsson says
Wow, I LOVE this recipe! I used gluten free pasta and crushed chex mix cereal as the breadcrumbs (a gf alternative). I had A LOT of sauce and at first I was worried it was going to be too liquidy, but it came out nice and thick and really felt like mac and cheese. I can’t wait to make this again! Think I will try it with another milk sub next to see how it impacts the taste, maybe hemp milk. I also think this would be great with sauteed spinach.
Chelsi Brashears says
I came across this while using your spaghetti squash cooking method, and I can’t wait to try this. I’m always looking for dairy free alternatives to my favorite foods. Do you add any S&P or seasonings to this? Also, what about adding nutritional yeast for that extra “cheesy” flavor? Just some thoughts 🙂
Chelsi Brashears says
Forgive my previous comment you use everything I suggested lol. I have a 4 month old, so I blame my brain (and obviously lack of) on him. Sorry!
No worries, Chelsea! I am very familiar with baby brain. I have a five month old! And a three year old, so my brain has been gone for a long time. 🙂 I just made a riff on this sauce with garlic and mushrooms to go over spaghetti squash, and will be posting it soon! I’m so glad you found me and shared your ideas. 🙂
Ok, I finally made this and it is TOTALLY hitting the spot. I paired it with brown rice pasta, as I’m having to do an elimination diet to find out what my son is allergic to. He’s having some bad eczema, and we’re thinking it’s food related :/ BUT, I can see this will be my savior!!! 🙂
Hi Beth, I just discovered your site last week, and today I made Tofu Bacon and the cauliflower cashew bake. They were both wonderful – we all had seconds and my husband is taking some to work tomorrow. I enjoy your writing very much and was so moved by the latest Less Of Beth video.
I love this dish and it’s been a while since I’ve made it and it’s on the menu for dinner tonight! Has anyone tried freezing it?
Hi Kate! I haven’t tried freezing it after baking, but I have frozen the sauce and then defrosted it to use in the dish and it worked really well! Hope your dinner was delish. 🙂
I made this sauce as the basis for a tuna mornay for my inlaws. I usually eat a plant based diet but my inlaws are quite elderly and this is their meal for a special occasion. It worked well instead of the usual sauce you make for a tuna mornay which involves butter and flour. I also have a friend who is unwell and on a gluten free diet, so I am also giving her some.
I’m going to try it with asparagus when it’s in season to make an asparagus mornay next time. Thanks for the recipe and look forward to trying a few other recipes, esp the noochits.
Hi Beth, just made the sauce for a nachos topping. Quick, easy, creamy, delicious and nutritious. Thanks for sharing xx
How much did the cauliflower head weigh more or less? Would unsweetened oat milk work here? Thanks!