November 20, 2011

The Romanian Romanesco

Since my blog is called Simply Romanesco, I had to post a cauliflower recipe, sooner or later.  After all, Romanesco is a type of cauliflower.  My grandma Vicki’s cauliflower recipe is one of my all-time favorite baked goods!  This delicious spin on a classic vegetable also makes for a great side dish at Thanksgiving!  So, this year, it’s one of my strong contenders!

I love cauliflower!  In fact, my entire family loves this vegetable.  Maybe that’s why any dish that has cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco, etc… as its star ingredient gets my full attention.  The following is a Baked Cauliflower with Pork and Béchamel Sauce recipe.  It’s true, but not to freak you out, there are a couple of extra steps you have to complete before you throw it in the oven.  But they are all very basic, and when you see the bubbly goodness at the end, you’ll be happy you took on the challenge.  In addition, this cauliflower dish can be served as a main course for a satisfying dinner, and not just as a side dish.  To top it off, even those of you, who are not huge fans of cauliflower, will love this recipe. 

I love this dish for its rusticity, its simplicity, its creaminess and the layers and layers of flavors.  The cauliflower, the meat, the rice and the rich white sauce, all come together in one big happy bite.  There is a burst of flavor in your mouth, which immediately makes you go for seconds.  I didn’t like cauliflower as a kid, but I learned to love and appreciate it through this recipe.  I think that feeding me this baked cauliflower dish was my grandmother’s way of making me eat it and starting to love this vegetable.  And, guess what, it worked!  Today, I love any variety of cauliflower. 

Baked Cauliflower with Pork and Béchamel Sauce
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki

Serves: 6-8 servings


·         1 (3-4 pounds; 1.5 kg) cauliflower, broken into florets
·         Kosher salt and black pepper
·         Vegetable oil
·         1 pound (500 grams) ground pork
·         1 medium yellow onion, chopped
·         ½ cup long grain rice
·         1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
·         ½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
·         4 cups (1 liter) whole milk, plus 3 more Tablespoons, divided
·         ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
·         Sour cream (optional)


Keep the cauliflower florets in cold water for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water starts boiling, add the 3 Tablespoons of milk and the cauliflower.  Turn the heat to medium and cook the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes.  Drain the cauliflower and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, cut the cauliflower florets in half to make them flat.  

Wash the rice in cold water.  In a small saucepan, add 2 Tablespoons of oil.  Add the rice and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked. 

In a medium saucepan, add 3 Tablespoons of oil.  Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt, and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the ground pork.  Season with salt and pepper and cook the meat with the onion for 10-12 minutes over medium heat.  When the meat is cooked (it will release some of its juices), add the cooked rice and mix well to incorporate.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside. 

For the Béchamel sauce, bring the 4 cups of milk to a simmer in a saucepan.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over medium-low heat.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring with a wooden spoon.  Add the milk to the butter-flour mixture all at once.  Add ½ Tablespoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and ½ teaspoon of nutmeg.  Whisk until the sauce thickens, about 7-10 minutes.  

To assemble the Baked Cauliflower with Pork and Béchamel Sauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Drizzle 3 Tablespoons of oil on the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking dish.  Arrange half of the cauliflower florets on the bottom of the dish.  Spread half of the Béchamel sauce over the cauliflower.  Spread the entire pork and rice mixture over the sauce.  Add the remaining cauliflower florets.  Spread the remaining of the sauce on top of the second layer of cauliflower.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.  

Bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.  Allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Add a dollop of sour cream on top and serve.  Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)  

1 comment:

  1. Usually I just eat cauliflower when I make a mashed version and add a bunch of seasonings to enhance the flavor. However, this recipe is now my all time favorite cauliflower recipe. I may never have it prepared any other way. It was full of flavor and perfect for a cold rainy evening. Thank you so much for sharing your Grandmother's recipe, it is truly a gift for the holidays!