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Roasted cauliflower parmigiana, a cheesy bake of cauliflower slices, parmesan and mozzarella layered with simple tomato sauce. In other words, three cheese tomato cauliflower with the easiest way of making tomato sauce.
I thank my lucky star that I’m not a famous chef; otherwise I might be in trouble over this recipe. Cauliflower parmigiana, who ever heard? Definitely not Italian chefs or, more importantly, nonnas. Parmigiana is one and only, made from – call them what you will – melanzane, aubergines, eggplant or marrow, with the only quibble among the native authorities about whether the melanzane should be fried in breadcrumbs or not. Various chicken, veal or pork parmigianas are immigrant songs*; whose dubious authenticity is emphasised by their pet name ‘Parm’.
If I was a famous chef on the other hand, I’d not only invent the dish (didn’t take much, I admit) but could also give it a funky name that would instantly catch on, go viral and become widely copied. Cauligiana, for instance. Or give it a list name after the current fashion: cauli, tomato, cheese. Or call it three cheese tomato cauliflower bake which sounds a bit boring but is probably the best fitting name.
As it is, I’ve made a good veggie dish which actually tastes better than it sounds. The tomato sauce making method is a shortcut I inherited from my mother (not a great cook), whose idea of tomato sauce was watered down purée. This is more sophisticated but it’s a good hack if you don’t fancy cooking the sauce properly for two hours. Just mix some good stock concentrate, seasoning and a bit of flour into tinned crushed tomatoes or passata and you get a decent cooking sauce.
The dish has potential for cutting corners even further if you don’t precook the cauliflower slices. It will cook in the oven, might be a bit more al dente but will save you time. If that’s not of essence though I’d say it’s worth pre-roasting the vegetable for a bit of caramelised edge and better flavour.
*immigrant song, after the Led Zeppelin 1972 track (not a fan, I just know lots of random music), is what I call dishes created by immigrants, usually to America. Roughly rooted in the native ethnic cuisine, they tend to use ingredients available in the foreign land and to better suit the palates they are cooked for; both features completely justified. Chicken balti, deep pan pizza, hamburgers, chilli con carne, fortune cookies and chop suey are among the best known immigrant songs. I do hope the expression catches.
cauliflower parmigianaServings: 2Time: 45 minutes
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 300g passata or tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. vegetable stock concentrate
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp corn flour
- 15g butter, melted
- 30g grated Parmesan
- 150g cooking mozzarella, sliced
- 2 tbsp. mascarpone
1. Trim and wash the cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
2. Slice the head vertically in half and then cut each half into 2-3 slices, about 2cm thick. Trim out the thickest part of the core. Season with salt and pepper on both sides and drizzle with olive oil.
3. Prepare a roasting dish large enough to fit the cauliflower slices in one layer. Place the pieces in the dish and roast for 30 minutes, carefully turning them over halfway through. The cauliflower should end up a little charred around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
4. To make the tomato sauce mix the passata or tomatoes with the stock, sugar, pepper, oregano, corn flour and butter. In an oven dish that will fit the cauliflower pieces in one layer but quite snugly, 23 x 23cm or similar, depending how large your cauliflower is, spread half the sauce over the bottom. Arrange the cauliflower pieces on the sauce, cover with half the Parmesan, then the mozzarella slices and the rest of the sauce. Spoon the mascarpone in dollops over the dish and finish with the remaining Parmesan.
5. Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is coloured and crisp.