Whole Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower

By Ann Fulton

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A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

 

 

 

 

A whole roasted head of cauliflower can be really impressive: beautifully golden brown with a delightfully savory, lightly nutty flavor. It can also take a really long time to cook.

But it doesn’t have to.

This recipe may seem fancy, and while it is worthy of special dinners (Valentine’s Day perhaps?), it’s 100% doable any night of the week. Thanks in part to a clever shortcut, the preparation is deceptively easy.

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

There’s even a quick video below!

Though we most often think of cauliflower as a supporting player on a dinner plate, you could serve the whole roasted head as the centerpiece of a meal. The cut wedges form the basis of a light-yet-satisfying dinner-or even a fun lunch. (Or a festive appetizer for a small group when that day comes again!)

You could also use the recipe below as a framework, keeping the preparation barebones with a light coating of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any spices of choice.

When roasted that way, the cauliflower is an ideal foil for sauces like Romesco, tahini, or even a favorite hummus, from the classic rendition to one of the many flavor variations (like roasted red pepper, harissa, spicy, or roasted garlic). Just cut the finished cauliflower into wedges and spread with your sauce of choice. Served this way, it makes a light, plant-based meal that’s both satisfying and special. 

As written, however, the following recipe delivers great flavor with ease. The combination of Parmesan and mayonnaise ensures superior flavor and golden brown caramelization, without an obvious taste of mayo. A few minced garlic cloves enhance the flavor, a dash of lemon juice supplies brightness, and chives add color. That said, when the chives in my garden are done for the season, I simply omit them. 

The downfall of some similar recipes is that the cauliflower takes a very long time to cook. It’s dense, so that makes sense. To make the preparation far quicker, I make use of a convenient shortcut: the microwave.

Eight short minutes will soften the head just enough to allow it to roast far quicker in the oven, but with enough time to develop the desired golden brown color and nutty flavor. (Note there is a stovetop alternative for those who may not have a microwave.) 

Eight minutes is the precise amount of time a head of cauliflower at the prescribed weight takes in my microwave on full power. Of course, microwaves vary, and size-wise, we sometimes we get what we get at the grocery store. So, I recommend checking the cauliflower after about six minutes if it’s on the small side, and give it an extra two minutes or so if it’s large. You want the head to be starting to soften but still firm inside. When in doubt, err on less time in the microwave, as you can always add more time in the oven. At that point, you’ll know the cauliflower is done when the tip of a sharp knife can be inserted all the way to the center of the head with little resistance. 

 

 

 

 

And following is a quick photo overview of the process:

(I must say that the bubblegum pink apron is a pick-me-up on a dreary day 😊)

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

To ensure even roasting and expedite the process, the cauliflower is par-cooked in the microwave and then drained. A stovetop option is included for those who may not have a microwave.

Prep!

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and chives.

Prep!

When roasting vegetables, minced garlic tends to burn. But it doesn’t when incorporated into the Parmesan mixture, and the fresh cloves provide a flavor boost. I often use an extra clove or two. That said, if fresh garlic doesn’t agree with you, feel free to omit or use ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder instead.

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

Chives supply a hint of fresh flavor, but the recipe is 100% worth making if you don’t have them on hand or wish to purchase a bunch, only to use a small amount.

 
A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

The par-cooked cauliflower requires little: simple seasoning and to be slathered with the Parmesan mixture, which may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

You’ll know the cauliflower is done when the tip of a sharp knife slides all the way to the core with little resistance. Don’t have a cast iron skillet? Another oven-safe skillet or baking sheet may be used instead.

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

When the head of cauliflower has leaves, I keep them as they will become crisp and delicious when roasted.

A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut!

You may serve wedges of cauliflower or break it apart into rough pieces.

If you make the recipe, I’d love to know what you think! 

Whole Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower
Yield: 4-6 servings
A whole roasted head of cauliflower is delicious AND impressive. It can also be easy and relatively quick thanks to a helpful shortcut. You may also use the basic technique, replacing the Parmesan mixture with a light coating of olive oil and simple seasonings and serve with a dip of choice.
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1½ pounds*)
  • ¼ cup water
  •  ¼ cup (52g) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped chives (may omit if you don’t have any)
  • Kosher salt, pepper, and paprika (smoked or regular)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400℉.
  2. Slice the bottom of the cauliflower to make a flat base. You may cut off some of the tough core, but feel free to leave any leaves, as they will soften, and the thinner edges will become crispy.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a shallow microwave-safe baking dish. (I use pie plate.) Add the water to the dish and microwave on high for 8 minutes. Drain well. (Helpful hints: check around the 5- to 6-minute mark. If your microwave is very high-powered or your cauliflower head is on the small side, it may be ready sooner. The idea is to par-cook the cauliflower so that it roasts through more efficiently in the oven while maintaining good texture. After microwaving, you want it to feel like it’s beginning to cook but is not soft on the outside. If you don’t have a microwave, you could replicate this process by steaming in a large pot on the stove. When in doubt, better to slightly undercook at this point because you can always add a few more minutes to the roasting time.)
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and chives.
  5. Cover the head of the cauliflower with the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread all the way down to the florets on the bottom. Lightly sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika over the surface of the cauliflower. You can flip the cauliflower over, and sprinkle some salt and pepper on the underside and into the crevices, too.
  6. Transfer the cauliflower to a lightly oiled cast iron skillet (another oven-proof skillet or baking sheet may be used), place in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and golden brown. (Helpful hint: the tip of a sharp knife should slide into the cauliflower with little resistance all the way to the core.)
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.
Notes

*If your head of cauliflower is a good bit larger, I recommend making 1½ times the Parmesan-mayo mixture to ensure enough to coat the whole head and extending the baking time as needed. Alternatively, you could microwave an additional minute or two.

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The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

 

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Comments

  1. Beth Parkins

    I try to make one or two of your recipes a week and I am never disappointed! Last night was this cauliflower recipe and it was FANTASTIC! Easy and delicious. Sliced into “steaks” and devoured it. Thanks for the tip to leave the leaves… they crisped up so nicely and were yummy! Definitely making this one again and again.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Your comment made my day, Beth. I am thrilled that you regularly cook the recipes and that they have not let you down. Thank you for taking a moment to leave such thoughtful feedback!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Gaye, I mention in the recipe instructions that you can accomplish the same thing by steaming the cauliflower on the stovetop.

      Reply
  2. Nadja

    Hi Ann – Tried it and loved it – as expected! My son loved the mayonnaise rub (1.5 times the amount was a useful tip), so he made more for dipping (with less garlic). I was, however, a little too ambitious re the cauliflower (about twice the size of yours in the pictures…). Unsurprisingly, I ended up roasting it for 45 minutes, covered with aluminium foil after 30. It turned out beautiful, but the short and thick stem was still a bit on the tough side, despite deep deep cross-wise incisions (it was a very firm cauliflower too). So the next time when working with such a monster , I will carefully cut out most of the stem, cut the stem lengthwise once or twice, and put the pieces around the head for roasting (pan space permitting). For serving, I’ll hide them under the head. Or I’ll stick to your instructions, but prepare two regular heads (leftovers taste great cold, too!).

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m delighted to read your feedback, Nadja, and I know what you mean in terms of cauliflower size. Some heads can be quite large! I’m glad my tips helped and appreciate you mentioning a few of your own. You inspired me with your previous broccoli mention, by the way, and I tried it last week. I had one large head (just over a pound) and microwaved it with 1/4 cup water for 3 minutes to get it started. Then I roasted for about 20 minutes at 425F. I kept it simple with olive oil, salt, and pepper-plus a squeeze of lemon at the end-and it was wonderful!

      Reply
      1. Nadja

        Thank you Ann, for your answer and for letting me know how to handle a large head of broccoli – will definitely try it this way. Yesterday I roasted two rather small heads of broccoli (in one batch), so I took the courage not to pre-cook them at all, but left the bottom of the heads a little wet from washing for moisture. I peeled and cut the stem of one broccoli 5 or 6 times to resemble a tassel (and turned it once in the roasting process), and cut off the stem of the other broccoli entirely, peeled and cut it to the size of French fries, and scattered the pieces around the pan, roasting everything for 25 min at 415. Option two worked particularly well, so you can definitely omit the pre-cooking process for small heads, and I really liked the “broccoli fries” too. Btw I used your spread, but experimented with grated almond and curcuma instead of parmesan and paprika That’s another great combo I’m pretty sure you’ll want to try, too! (Any grated nuts will yield delicious crumbs, I guess).Will make both your version and mine over and over again!

        Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          Thank you for the details, Nadja. The “French fry” pieces would be wonderful as would the almond crumbs. It’s going on dinnertime here, so your descriptions are making me particularly hungry!

          Reply
  3. Nadja

    Hi Ann, I’m going to give this a try for a special reason: Much as I prefer home office over commuting, I do miss office lunch – I had many excellent and affordable restaurants to choose from. One of my favourite dishes was a whole bunch of roasted broccoli with a lemon mayonnaise dip, so your recipe will bring back some lovely memories! For a first try, I’ll stick to your recipe and use cauliflower (your recipes are always reliable!), but I’ll experiment with broccoli, too (which probably won’t need par-cooking).
    All best, Nadja

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Nadja, The office lunch you describe sounds magical…and with the lemon mayo dip. Yum! I am now debating in my head whether to blanch the broccoli first or not, as I want to try. Thanks for mentioning, and I look forward to your feedback!

      Reply