Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche

Photo from Bon Appetit

I was instantly drawn to this recipe when I saw the beautiful picture in this month's Bon Appetit. I'll admit I was a little nervous about how the cauliflower, tomato and green onion would blend together in the dish. Turns out I shouldn't have given it a second thought. This dish was superb. It is very filling and works beautifully as a main course that needs no other accompaniment. The sauce was very flavorful and creamy and the addition of the cauliflower melded perfectly with the other components of the dish. This dish is a bit time consuming to make, requiring multiple steps and using lots of pots and pans. The result, however, is well worth the effort.

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche
Source: Bon Appetit, October 2008
  • 1 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, cored, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups coarsely grated Comté cheese (or half Gruyère and half Fontina; about 9 ounces), divided
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 10 oz penne (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from crustless French bread ground in processor)


  • Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using large sieve, transfer cauliflower to bowl. Add tomatoes to pot; cook 1 minute. Remove from water; peel and dice tomatoes. Reserve pot of water.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and green onions. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups Comté cheese; whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then crème fraîche* and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  • Return reserved pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return pasta to same pot. Stir in cauliflower mixture and sauce.
  • Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon in half of pasta mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat; mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle crumbs over pasta. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pasta uncovered until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.

1 comment:

Colleen said...

This - along with the rest of your dinner party - looks delicious! And I already have this page folded over in Bon Appetit so I am glad you tried it first - lol.