Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushroom Sauce

I have been staring at this head of cauliflower all week long, not quite sure what I wanted to do with it.  I kept wanting to make a casserole, but couldn’t decide what direction to go in.  I ended finding inspiration in one of my own recipes – Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Mushroom Cream Sauce.

This pasta bake isn’t heavy or drenched in sauce, but is a great way to make an easy dinner that is both healthy and filling. 

Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushroom Sauce

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Ingredients: (serves 6 to 8)

  • 1 package pasta (I used small shells)
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 pint sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups unsweetened original almond milk (or other milk)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 slices sourdough or other crusty bread
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance or butter
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions:  The only bad thing about making this is that you are going to get your kitchen dirty.  Definitely not a one pot meal!  Start by boiling a large pot of water to cook your pasta and cauliflower.  I used these pretty colorful shells that I found in the bulk bins at my grocery store, but you can use whatever type you have on hand. 

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Once the water boils, add your pasta and cook for 5 minutes or so.  With 2-3 minutes left in your cooking time, add the cauliflower to the pot as well.

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Once pasta is al dente and cauliflower is beginning to soften, drain both in to a colander in the sink, and set aside to cool.

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In the meantime, you can make your sauce.  Start by adding sliced mushrooms to a pan over medium high heat, and sautéing in a bit of olive oil.  Cook for about ten minutes until soft and brown.  (Note:  I didn’t have sliced mushrooms, so I chopped up 4 big portabellas!)

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Once mushrooms are cooked, add 1 cup of almond milk and allow to simmer for a few minutes in order to condense and create a rich base for the sauce.  Next add the nutritional yeast and the rest of the almond milk.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer and allow it to cook and condense for about 10 minutes.  The sauce will still be very thin and runny.

In a small separate container, combine 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp water to make a slurry.  Do not add the cornstarch directly to the sauce!  Add the slurry mixture to the sauce and continue to stir – sauce should start to thicken immediately!  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

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Last but not least, prepare the breadcrumbs!  Take 3 slices of crusty bread (I used cracked sourdough – yum!) and tear into pieces.  Add to a food processor along with garlic, Earth Balance, a pinch of red pepper flakes. 

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Pulse until bread becomes breadcrumbs!

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In a 9×13 baking dish, combine pasta and cauliflower with the mushroom sauce and spread evenly.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

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Top baking dish with breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees F. 

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The finished product is more of a tossed pasta dish than a casserole, and is perfect for a hearty meal that is still full of vegetables.

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The sauce is light and creamy, and it’s hard to believe it’s vegan. 

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Red pepper flakes in the breadcrumb topping pack just the slightest kick, which I love.  This meal is great for making ahead and baking on a busy night, or eating straight out of the oven. 

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Whenever you choose to make it – enjoy!