Recipe: Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

Recipe: Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

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Sheela Prakash
Oct 20, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

It's hard not to love the versatility of cauliflower. Whether it's turned into rice, made into pizza crust, or simply roasted, we all can't seem to get enough of its possibilities. This cheesy sauce is the next wave. It takes the Brassica to creamy territory with the help of sharp cheddar and nutty Gruyère. It's not all about the cheese, however — here the cauliflower takes center stage while the cheese plays a supporting role. That results in a wholesome, feel-good sauce you're going to want to pour over everything, including this mac and cheese.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

A Creamy Sauce for Pasta, Pizza, and More

Toss cooked cauliflower into a blender or food processor and you'll be surprised by how willingly it breaks down into a purée. Since plain cauliflower is quite mild in flavor, the florets are simmered with garlic cloves and herbs to infuse a savory flavor that plays well in the background without overpowering.

To create the creamiest, most flavorful purée, melty cheeses are whisked into it to result in something that's infinitely adaptable. Toss it with pasta for a wholesome riff on Alfredo, or use it in your next batch of mac and cheese. Beyond that, try it in place of tomato sauce on pizza, as a dipping sauce for chicken tenders, or even drizzled over roasted potatoes.

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of sauce; serves 4 to 6

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and boil for 5 minutes to infuse the water.

Add the cauliflower and cook until very fork-tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Scoop out 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the blender along with the oil. Blend until very smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl.

Whisk the Gruyère, cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper into the purée. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Serving on pasta: This recipe makes enough sauce to coat about 8 ounces of dry pasta. We recommend keeping some of the pasta cooking water on hand to thin the sauce out if needed.
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