I always wanted to make a whole roasted cauliflower (talk about drama!) and remember when I was younger looking at recipes in cookbooks (and probably stuffy old cookbooks at that!) The cauliflower took fuh-evah to cook! Like hours forever. And for some reason, I thought they were reserved for “Dinner Party” status. If you’ve never been tempted to make one before because you thought they were too fancy, too difficult, or took too much time, take a look at this beauty: Quicker Whole Roasted Cauliflower.
Now there is something to be said about the ease of straight-up roasting your cauliflower, plopping your cauliflower in a pan, and forgetting about it for a couple of hours. I’ll give you instructions to that, too, but this recipe has an extra step, the shortcut. It’s simple, but any extra steps always translate into a little extra effort. In this case, I think that extra effort is well worth it.
About Quicker Whole Roasted Cauliflower:
I came across the idea for this method from the New York Times. The cauliflower is simmered in salted water until just barely tender then drained, rubbed with a little oil (I used a balsamic vinaigrette) and roasted until tender. So there’s your extra step, a simmering water bath.
What that simmering does beyond knocking about an hour of cooking time (more or less) is it makes the cauliflower more flavorful, allows it to roast evenly, and lets the cauliflower develop a beautiful color. And we all know that color equals flavor! It also solves timing issues you might have with varying sized heads. Plus, the core of the cauliflower is just as tender as the rest so there’s no waste! (I get excited “!” about no waste!)
- With a simple roasted cauliflower, any seasonings or flavor are going to be only on the outside and not able to penetrate to the center of the cauliflower. Cooking that cauliflower first in (heavily) salted water will flavor the cauliflower throughout.
- Cauliflower that is only roasted not only takes forever, but dry heat of roasting means the outside of the cauliflower will be done before the inside. The quick water bath is going to give the inside of the cauliflower a head start.
- Cauliflower that’s roasted only will take on a different color, be spottier and there’s less chance it will be gorgeous and browned all over.
- Cauliflower can vary from small and cute to just about gargantuan! When roasting the size can affect how long it needs to roast. After simmering until tender the roasting time is really about the browning and it will take 25 to 35 minutes in the oven. You’ll have a pretty good idea of the timing so you can plan the other elements of the meal.
- The Cauliflower will be perfectly tender throughout, the core and stem parts as well as the florets! Bonus that the whole thing can be eaten!
How to Flavor your Cauliflower:
A quick search will give you about 10,000 ways to add a little flavor to your roasted cauliflower. I’ve seen recipes with just a little garlic powder to fabulous concoctions with Moroccan or Indian spice. There are a lot of recipes that lean towards Italian. There are some that are fiery hot, others just savory. There’s really no limit! Any of those flavorings will work with this method, just use them after the simmer.
What’s important is that the outside of the cauliflower, before it goes in the oven, has a coating that has at least some oil. You can rub it with oil and then sprinkle your cauliflower with spice blends or rubs, or add garlic or parmesan, or do like I did and brush it with a little vinaigrette. Hey, when inspiration hits!!
A vinaigrette might already have everything you need. The oil, the flavor, and the little chunks of garlic that get all browned and crispy. I gotta give a shout out to my favorite Balsamic Vinaigrettes. There’s my Most Amazing Balsamic Vinaigrette & a Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette. Of course, store-bought will do, too.
How to Serve your Cauliflower:
Now you get to decide if you want to make the cauliflower a meal (I did but I know more than a few carnivores that would highly object) and cut it into wedges or slices like “steak” and maybe serve it with a sauce. My Red Pepper Sauce I used (again inspired by the New York Times) is found on this page.
I had in mind to serve a second sauce, my Green Sauce that you’ll see on my post for Peruvian Chicken (I just love love love that sauce and want to put it on everything) but in the end stuck with just the one. A little sauce does take it over the top…it just makes the cauliflower so much more interesting because as you can see, the inside of the cauliflower doesn’t benefit from any flavoring you add to the outside.
If you’re looking at this as a side with drama, you couldn’t go wrong with something simple for the main protein. It would be marvelous with fish and that Red Pepper Sauce is basically a variation of a Romesco sauce which is also served with fish! It sounds like a perfect marriage to me. A simple chicken breast would be marvelous. Maybe a little spinach salad on the side, something colorful. A plate of all whitish food is never the most appetizing so my mind isn’t really going to something carby like any kind of pasta or rice pilaf.
Simmering the Quicker Whole Roasted Cauliflower:
You’re gonna need a big pot (probably your largest unless your cauliflower is small) to simmer the cauliflower in. You’ll want the most water possible so when you add the cauliflower, it comes right back up to a simmer without missing a beat.
Get the water in it (start with hot water) add a lid and get it going before you do anything else and make sure to allow enough room to add the cauliflower. You can test it if you add your cauliflower to the pot and then top the pot off with water, then remove the cauliflower. Trust me, it’s a bummer to have a huge pot of boiling water and not enough room for the cauliflower.
While that’s going, remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower, being careful not to break any florets off. Take a little of the core, again, being mindful of those florets. Then lay the cauliflower stem end down and make sure it’s pretty even. Trim just a little here or there if needed.
Once the water boils, salt the water well! A good tablespoon or two. It’s going to flavor the center of the cauliflower and it needs it. Drop in the head (carefully) stem side up. Add a bowl or a heavy plate over the top if it floats and let it simmer, lid on, for about 10 to 11 minutes. Check it carefully with a knife, in the center but not the very center core. The point of a sharp knife should go in with just a little resistance. Overcooked cauliflower is never a good thing!
The easiest way I’ve found to get that cauliflower out is to put a big colander in the sink, just in case, and then pour the water off. Hopefully, you can leave the cauliflower behind in the pan rather than drop it in the colander, which could crack the head, so think of that colander as insurance. Then grab a clean kitchen towel and transfer the cauliflower to a foil-lined sheet pan. At this point, you might be cursing me but that’s ok! I can take it. Just be careful of that steamy hot hot hot cauliflower!
Roasting your Cauliflower:
If you’re roasting your cauliflower right away, turn the oven on to 450 degrees F. (and set the rack about four inches from the bottom so there’s room for the cauliflower) while the cauliflower is simmering. You can hold the cauliflower for a little while before roasting if you need to. You don’t want it stone-cold but it’s ok to let it sit for maybe a half an hour or so if it helps with the timing of the rest of your meal.
If there’s a lot of moisture, blot it off with your towel. Brush the cauliflower with the balsamic vinaigrette. Put the sheet pan in the oven and roast until golden brown, about 25 to 35 minutes depending on your oven. Watch it at the end. If the browning isn’t to your liking by the time your cauliflower is done, you could turn the broiler on to low. If you see the florets begin to separate, get it out of the oven quickly; it’s on the verge of being so done it’s about to fall apart.
Since the cauliflower is served with a roasted red pepper sauce, the peppers can be roasted as the cauliflower cooks (or be done ahead) but they won’t take quite as long. Watch them carefully, too.
Saving Money on Quicker Whole Roasted Cauliflower:
Cauliflower, which used to be a kind of cheap veggie in recent years has risen in popularity and price! Luckily, these days the supply must be meeting the demand and the price has normalized a little. Do watch for sales and be alert as to whether your cauliflower is priced by the head or by the pound.
In my area, it seems to vary. If it’s by the pound, weigh your head and multiply it out (it seems like I never see anyone using those scales anymore) to avoid any big surprises at the checkout. If it’s by the head, always grab the largest for the best deal. It doesn’t hurt to weigh the cauliflower on sale by the head, just to know the sales price is a good one. (See calculation, above.)
If you’re curious as to why I chose that example, 2 pounds, 10 ounces it’s because that happened to me not too long ago. The “sale” cauliflower was more per pound ($1.14) than the one not on sale for 89 cents a pound. (And there weren’t very many heads of that on sale cauliflower left in the big bin.)
I hope you guys like this recipe and maybe are giving it a go! If you do, I’m curious. Is it going to be a main dish meal or just a fabulous side!! In the meantime, thanks for visiting and I hope you’re all staying safe and being careful out there!
Quicker Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Total Time: about 45 to 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Sides
- Cuisine: American
- 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed to sit flat, excess core removed
- 1 1/2 to tablespoons salt (more if pot holds lots of water)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. when ready to bake. Place rack about 4 inches from the bottom. Line a sheet tray with foil.
Fill large pot with hot water, leaving enough room to add the cauliflower, bring to a boil.
In the meantime, remove any leaves from the cauliflower, trim a little of the core, being careful not to cause any florets to separate, trim to lay flat if needed.
When the water boils, add a generous amount of salt, add cauliflower, stem side up. Weight if needed, cover and simmer briskly, adjusting heat as needed, until a knife inserted near the center (but not in the thickest part of the core) goes in with just a little resistance. Depending on the size of the cauliflower, this could take 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, remove cauliflower and place stem side down on lined sheet.
The cauliflower may be held on the sheet for 1/2 an hour or so before roasting if desired. Brush with the balsamic vinaigrette. Roast for 25 to 35 minutes until tender and golden brown, being careful to not overcook. If necessary turn broiler on to low to aid in browning. Watch carefully while roasting; if the florets are beginning to separate, remove immediately; it’s on the verge of being overdone.
Cut it into slices or wedges, and serve with sauce of choice.
Note: To roast without par cooking in simmering water, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and roast for at least one hour and up to two hours, depending on the size of the cauliflower.
Keywords: balsamic vinaigrette, Bargain Meal of the Week, Cauliflower, Side, Vegetable Side