Vegan Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

Vegan Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, and growing up my mom would make several dishes with it.
My all-time favorite was a casserole made with lots of cream and cheese, not healthy at all, but very similar to this rigatoni al forno. So easy and quick to make, just like this recipe.
Combining the cauliflower with large-format pasta, vegan cheese, and bread crumbs, then baking it until crisply golden, makes for a splendid meal.

vegan rigatoni and cauliflower al forno

In this recipe, the cauliflower is pan roasted until light brown, which enhances its delicious flavor. The addition of garlic, sage, red pepper and capers is a delightful combination!
If you want a simple and quick vegetable side dish, skip the pasta and just serve the sautéed cauliflower. It is terrific!

I make this recipe countless times now, and I don’t obsess over measurements. It’s a very forgiving recipe, and it’s always delicious no matter how you make it.
You can toss in a bunch of roughly chopped garlic, and I don’t even bother chopping the capers.

vegan rigatoni and cauliflower al forno

I prefer my cauliflower on the softer side, so I cook a bit longer than it suggests in the recipe. I also add more cauliflower than pasta, leaving the florets big.
This dish is supposed to be crispy, which many people may find it too dry. So if you prefer a more saucy dish, save some of the pasta cooking water and add to it before baking. Make a double batch of cheese sauce and add lots of it after baking. I love my pasta both saucy and crispy; and by adding either water or sauce during baking, the pasta never gets crispy enough to my taste.

No matter how you prefer your pasta, this recipe is very forgiving, and you will adjust the ingredients to your taste.

Vegan Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

vegan rigatoni and cauliflower al forno

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni 
  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
  •  Extra-virgin olive oil
  •  Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, plus a few sage leaves left whole
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces vegan grated mozzarella
  • 2 cups vegan cheese sauce
  • ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into roughly 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.
  3. Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves, and lemon zest and stir to coat.
  4. Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni, cheese sauce, and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with shredded vegan cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)
  5. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard (or Dijon)
  • 1/2 cup homemade almond milk

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt and pepper, and simmer stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to bubble. Whisk in the cornstarch and cook, whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken.

Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the lemon juice, mustard, and milk, and blend for a few seconds. Taste, adjusting the seasonings if necessary. Return the sauce to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring, until hot.

If not using right away, cool the sauce to room temperature, then transfer it to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Properly stored, the sauce will keep for 2 to 3 days. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat.

Vegan rigatoni and cauliflower al forno

 

vegan Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 medium cauliflower about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage plus a few sage leaves left whole
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces vegan grated mozzarella
  • 2 cups vegan cheese sauce
  • ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into roughly 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.
  3. Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves, and lemon zest and stir to coat.
  4. Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni, cheese sauce, and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with shredded vegan cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)

  5. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.

 

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Servings 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard or Dijon
  • 1/2 cup homemade almond milk

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt and pepper, and simmer stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to bubble. Whisk in the cornstarch and cook, whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the lemon juice, mustard, and milk, and blend for a few seconds. Taste, adjusting the seasonings if necessary. Return the sauce to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring, until hot.
  3. If not using right away, cool the sauce to room temperature, then transfer it to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Properly stored, the sauce will keep for 2 to 3 days. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat.
Vegan rigatoni al forno made with homemade vegan cheese. It is a quick, delicious, and easy side dish recipe that will delight everyone.



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