Cauliflower Pasta Bake

Cauliflower Pasta Bake with crispy, crunchy Ritz cracker topping! It's like grown-up mac and cheese. Made with roasted cauliflower, onions, Parmesan, and Gouda. So good!

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings


For the pasta:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound pasta, such as shells, pipe rigate, or rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup milk, whole or 2%
  • Zest from one lemon (about 1 tablespoon zest)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) grated Gouda

For the cracker topping:

  • 14 (1 small sleeve) Ritz crackers, or similar buttery crackers
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Special equipment:


1 Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place one rack in the top third of the oven and one rack in the lower third.

2 Prepare the cauliflower and the onions: Trim away the outer leaves and cut the cauliflower into slices roughly 1/4-inch thick. Some smaller florets will fall away; this is fine.

Spread the cauliflower slices and any florets that have fallen off on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Using your hands, rub the oil into the cauliflower, coating both sides. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Roughly chop the onion. On a second baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet, toss the onions with the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

(Roasting the cauliflower and onions on separate pans will give them more space and help them roast better.)

Cauliflower Pasta Bake Cauliflower Pasta Bake

3 Roast the cauliflower and onions: Place the cauliflower on the lower rack of the oven and the onions on the top rack. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until both are tender and golden. Flip the cauliflower once during roasting; stir the onions occasionally. Remove the onions from the oven if they finish before the cauliflower or start to burn.

Let the vegetables cool slightly in their pans. Break the cauliflower into smaller florets.

Cauliflower Pasta Bake Cauliflower Pasta Bake

4 Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF for baking the pasta.

5 While the vegetables roast, cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente (do not overcook or the pasta will become mushy after baking). Scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Drain the pasta in a colander.

6 Assemble the casserole: Return the drained pasta to the pot and immediately stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan while the pasta is still hot. Once the cheese has melted and absorbed into the pasta a little, stir in the milk.

Add the roasted cauliflower and onion, lemon zest, thyme and Gouda, and stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like. If the mixture seems dry, add a little pasta cooking water, a tablespoon at a time.

Transfer to a 3- or 4-quart baking dish.

Cauliflower Pasta Bake Cauliflower Pasta Bake

7 Top with the crispy cracker crumbs: Place the crackers in a zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin until coarsely crumbled.

In a bowl, mix the crushed crackers with 2 tablespoons Parmesan, the melted butter and parsley. Sprinkle this evenly over the pasta.

Cauliflower Pasta Bake Cauliflower Pasta Bake

8 Bake the pasta: Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pasta is hot and the top is golden.

9 Cool briefly and serve. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and reheated in a microwave or a warm oven.

Click on the comments you'd like to print with your recipe. Grayed out comments will not print.


  • Brenda

    I loved it. Thanksgiving is coming up would love to make it, can I make it 2 days before and then bake it on Thanksgiving Day! Thank you also may I now try Almond milk instead

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Brenda! Yes, I think you could make the casserole and store it, covered, in the fridge until ready to bake. Wait to top with the crackers until just before baking. You could also bake the casserole ahead of time and then warm it in the oven when ready to serve. And yes, I think that almond milk will work ok in place of the dairy milk.

  • Laura

    We made this tonight and it was delicious, one version was regular pasta and one was gluten free. Added some garlic and substituted some 1/2 n 1/2 for the milk. Loved the onions and cauliflower. You could probably use different kinds of cheeses — it’s really forgiving. Served it with grilled chicken and salad. Yum!


  • Katherine

    Can you put in the nutritional information, including phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and protein??

  • Sandy S

    For anyone who likes cauliflower I suggest taking the time to make this dish! It is worth it! I love cauliflower and almost skipped the rest of the recipe when the cauliflower was fresh out of the oven. Sooo Good! This said, it’s the butter cracker with parsley and Parmesan topping that ‘ices the cake!’ OMG
    I will definitely be making this recipe again. And I may even just make the roasted cauliflower with the cracker topping again! :)
    BTW This is a perfect recipe to make while watching a football game. You can make it and clean-up just in time to watch the 4th quarter with a bowl of hot Pasta Cauliflower to enjoy!


  • Yana

    This looks so good, I’m going to make it this weekend…but I agree, it does seem to dirty a lot of pots. I think the onions can be roasted right in the baking dish, no? Then assemble everything in that baking dish too, and you just have to rinse the pasta cooking pot and the cauliflower baking sheet (assuming it was lined).

  • Alida @My Little Italian Kitchen

    I could have pasta any day of the week.. infact being Italian I almost do! Lovely yummy recipe.

  • [email protected]

    4 pots and pans seem like alot to me. However, this looks and sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try it.