Cauliflower gets a new flavor profile when it’s oven-roasted in thick slices and smothered with homemade marinara sauce and melted cheese. Cauliflower Parmesan is lighter, because it’s not fried. It’s easy to make and oh-so-tasty!
I’m sure you’ve heard that cauliflower in all its varied forms is quite the rage these days. Having followed a vegetarian diet for decades and now following a more flexitarian diet, we’ve always loved cauliflower! It’s kind of fun to see that cauliflower is getting to be so popular.
One of my favorite meals that seems to be getting some traction is Cauliflower Parmesan – when you’re a vegetarian, you learn to be creative with veggies! Cauliflower Parmesan is healthy and tasty, with the flavors of a good Eggplant Parmesan (minus the usually fried eggplant, that is!)
Cauliflower Parmesan starts with cauliflower slices; thickly cut slabs of cauliflower, lightly oiled and then roasted. I suggest using a large cauliflower and cutting from the center – then the slices will hold together… you’ll see that one of my slices came apart! No matter, it tasted just fine 🙂
When they get all browned and crispy-edged, the best cauliflower flavor really comes out.
Then those slices are covered in freshly made Italian flavored marinara (tomato) sauce. To finish, they’re topped with a bit of Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese – it is called Cauliflower Parmesan, after all! Although other cheeses would also do… really, it’s up to you.
For this recipe I use my my easy-peasy everyday homemade Italian marinara sauce. This Italian tomato sauce is easy to make and so much better than bottled sauce! You really have to give it a try because it takes an everyday pasta dish up a notch. The extra few minutes to put it together is well worth it!
Now, to clarify, I do not have time to make the tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes every time, and maybe you don’t either. Or maybe gorgeous fresh tomatoes are not in season. So, from time to time, I do use 100% natural tomato paste (organic if I can find it) for making this sauce. I use tomato paste that comes in a glass jar.
A Bit About Canned Food
I have a thing about using canned items in cooking, in that… I really try not to use canned items! I believe that the fresher the ingredients, the more nutrient value and more “life” energy the food will have. And the better it will taste. I also don’t like wasting calories on “empty” foods, and I think that in general, a lot of canned items fall into this category. I would always prefer to get tomato paste in a glass jar rather than a can, to avoid the leaching properties BPA, (Bisphonel A) that is in the lining of most cans.
Numerous studies have shown that toxic BPA absorbed by the vegetables in the cans is damaging to brain and behavioral health. Plus, it is often linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Therefore, if I use a canned item, I will always opt for one that states “BPA-free” on the label.
In my recipes I always try to use fresh items. Preferably, organic if at all possible. At present, there are only 4 items that I might buy that come in a can:
- Pure tomato paste – I prefer glass jarred tomato paste, but I might buy a BPA-free can of organic tomato paste if there was nothing else available and I just had to have it… but who has an Italian dinner emergency, really?? So that doesn’t happen often…
- Canned black olives
- Coconut milk – if I can find one without any preservatives
- Sweetened condensed milk/dulce de leche – I very rarely use this, but ON OCCASION if a recipe calls for it (I’m thinking Banoffee Pie) and I just can’t avoid it… I might do it. Like I’ve said before, flexitarian…
I only consider these 4 canned items because they are 100% natural.
My Super Marinara Sauce Recipe
But, back to pasta sauce. This is my super-dooper recipe, which I don’t mind sharing with you because then you will get compliments on your pasta sauce all the time and people will plead with you for the recipe! Share the love, you know…
This recipe couldn’t be easier. First you sauté onions and garlic in olive oil.
Then I add in my secret ingredients – turmeric powder (just a bit) and paprika powder. The paprika adds just a little bit of zing to the sauce. I add turmeric because it is so good for health that I add it in wherever I can get away with it. (you can read all about amazing turmeric in this article) Turmeric does not have that much of a flavor when a pinch is added to a sauce like this one. You’ll never know it is there… it’s just doing its healthy magic on your body.
We let the sauce simmer for as long as possible until the sauce is thickened and the herbs have melded. Traditionally, Italians make pasta sauce in a huge pot and let it simmer on the stove all day… they add in raw carrots as a sweetener, because the natural sugar of the carrots cuts the acidity of the tomato. But we don’t have all day to let it simmer, so a teeny bit of sugar does the trick.
Some minimalist cooks will tell you that you don’t need sugar in marinara sauce. However. You don’t know how many times I’ve cooked with someone who has been tasting and testing their marinara sauce and it’s just missing something and they can’t figure out what to do to bring it all together… a pinch of sugar sweetness brings out all the fresh flavors and makes them sing… you’ll see… you can also try another sweetener like agave syrup…
I start any Italian meal by putting the sauce on, and by the time it is ready, the rest of your meal should be too. In that way, it is not a time-bother and so very worth it to make your own sauce!
This sauce goes well on this Cauliflower Parmesan, on any pasta, on eggplant Parmesan, in casseroles, just anytime you need an Italian red sauce. It’s very versatile!
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- 3 thick cauliflower slices, taken from center of large-ish cauliflower
- olive oil for brushing cauliflower
- salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese for topping
- ¼ cup grated Mozzarella for topping (or Monterey Jack or other white melting cheese that goes with Italian flavors)
For the Sauce:
- 1½ TBSP olive oil
- ½ small white onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped, or per your taste
- 1½ teaspoons paprika powder
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs (herbs or herb powder)
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano herb flakes
- ¼ teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (or salt of your choice, to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper powder (more to taste)
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 1 cup water (or more to make sauce)
For the Cauliflower:
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Make three thick slices of cauliflower, cut from the center of a largish head of cauliflower
- Place cauliflower slices on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper
- Roast at 425°F until lightly browned and tender; turning once during baking – about 30-35 minutes. Check at 20 minutes for browning
For the Sauce:
- Heat oil in a small heavy-bottomed pot. When oil is hot, add onions and garlic and stir fry on medium heat until translucent
- Remove from heat and stir in turmeric, paprika and onion powder.Return to heat and fry for about half a minute; if spices are bubbling without heat do not return to heat – dry spices can burn quickly and that will ruin your sauce 🙁
- Quickly add tomato paste, water, sugar, Italian herbs, salt and pepper and whisk to make a smooth sauce
- Simmer on low heat until sauce has thickened, approx. 15 minutes
- Taste for salt and adjust as needed
- Remove cauliflower from oven and cover with the tomato sauce
- Sprinkle with cheeses of your choice
- Return to oven and let heat until the cheeses have melted
- Optional: additional oregano can be sprinkled on top of cheese just before serving
- I usually serve this with mixed sautéed veggies, fresh bread and salad