Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Cheese

from Eggs on Sunday

Adapted from Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden by Jeanne Kelley

1 pound whole wheat penne
1 large head cauliflower, florets thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
3 cups milk
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (or Panko breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9×13 baking dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat, then saute the onion until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute, then whisk in the flour and cook 1 more minute, but don’t let the flour brown. Whisk in the milk, then add the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally, until it thickens. Add the cheeses and keep stirring until they melt, then stir in the salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside (you can make this up to 1 day ahead, cooling it, covering it, and refrigerating it.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne according to the directions on the package. Four minutes before the penne is done cooking, add the sliced cauliflower florets. Drain very well.

Combine the pasta, cauliflower, and cheese sauce, stir well, then stir in the chopped parsley. Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish.

To make the breadcrumb topping, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine it with the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the top of of the baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Serves 8.