Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Cheese

Scott Phillips

Servings: 6

Cauliflower and cheese are a classic combination, and here they come together in a sophisticated take on macaroni and cheese. The cauliflower adds flavor and beneficial nutrients, and it lightens up the calorie count of each portion.


  • 4 cups 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 lb.; from 1/2 head)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Fine sea salt or table salt
  • 12 oz. dried penne
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 oz. coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1-1/2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1-1/2 cups using a rasp grater)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 350
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 70
  • Fat (g): 8
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Cholesterol (mg): 20
  • Sodium (mg): 790
  • Carbohydrates (g): 52
  • Fiber (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 18


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a steamer basket set over 1 inch of boiling water in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.
  • Fill the pot three-quarters full of salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  • While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an 8-inch square baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.


Rate or Review


  • cozette | 10/19/2017

    Well, I made this "EXACTLY as written" and my husband and I loved it! (On, there was that dab of heavy cream I added, sorry, but the quantities were the same.)

  • debm59 | 08/17/2014

    First of all, you can't give a recipe five stars if you add ingredients and make substitutions. It's not the same recipe anymore. I made this EXACTLY, as written and I thought it was terrible. It smelled amazing while it was cooking but was not worth waiting for. It was dry and lumpy (guess I didn't run the blender long enough) and it lacked flavour. I won't make this again.

  • FoodmyLovely | 02/05/2014

    What a lovely little recipe! I'm bummed that others didn't find it so, but here are my thoughts. I hate "health" food. HATE it. So I was skeptical but willing to try this one. I was fascinated by how the pureed milk and veggies mirrored a great bechamel. I did not find the texture odd, but I did have the blender going for at least a minute. With the final addition of milk, I added it until the thickness seemed right, so maybe that's what makes the texture difference. I did not find the recipe bland at all, but I added salt to taste rather then measure. I did swap out a couple ingredients, so here they are: asiago for parmesan, skim milk for 1%, and I added some cut up rotisserie chicken and a few extra cloves of garlic. If you do try this one, I hope you have success with it, because it really is good.

  • oatmeallover | 01/16/2014

    I enjoyed this dish quite a bit and was intrigued by the alternative use of cauliflower to make it more nutritious. I'm knocking off 2 stars because there is no way in heck that 1.5 ounces of parmesan is equivalent to 1.5 CUPS! I had 1/3 pound of parm and when I grated it all THAT didn't even reach the 1.5 cup level. Also, I much prefer pasta recipes that call for a full pound rather than 12 ounces. So much easier.

Show More

Rate this Recipe

Write a Review

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 44%

Already a subscriber? Log in.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks