No complicated three-step breading process. No messy, splatter-y stovetop deep-frying. Just melty mozzarella cheese, toasty panko breadcrumbs that stay crisp, and cauliflower instead of chicken.
Recipe for a perfect Cauliflower Parm below, cooking Notes and shopping Resources follow.
suggested wine pairing: my favorite Italian red grape, Sangiovese, which makes the familiar Chianti and Rosso di Montalcino; I love this Rosso di Montalcino, though it's a little hard to find in stores.
serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as part of a larger meal with a salad, some garlic bread, and maybe simple spaghetti with marinara sauce
1 large head cauliflower
½ cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 26- to 28-ounce can of tomatoes
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh basil and parsley for garnish
Heat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare cauliflower: Trim and slice cauliflower into ¾-inch wide “steaks.” It’s ok if some florets come loose. Carefully place the cauliflower steaks on lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and rub all sides of cauliflower. Generously season with salt; cauliflower requires heavy seasoning every step of the way. Roast cauliflower for about 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the roasting time, until both sides are deep golden brown.
Toast breadcrumbs: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium heat. If you use a pan that can also cook tomato sauce, you'll have one less pan to wash. Add breadcrumbs. Shake pan or stir until breadcrumbs are deep golden brown. Remove breadcrumbs from pan to a bowl right away. Residual heat from the pan can take the breadcrumbs from perfect to burnt pretty quickly, not that burnt is bad. That’s how I like my toast anyway.
Make the tomato sauce: While cauliflower is roasting, make tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. (You can wipe out the pan you used for the breadcrumbs if the pan is large enough.) Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add finely chopped or crushed tomatoes, basil, and red pepper. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Season with about ½ teaspoon salt, taste, and add more if needed. You can let the tomato sauce simmer until the cauliflower finishes roasting, or turn off the heat.
Assemble the Cauliflower Parm: Spread about 2 cups of tomato sauce in a baking dish. Place roasted cauliflower steaks on top. Cover the cauliflower with all the breadcrumbs, then grated parmesan cheese, then mozzarella cheese.
Set the baking dish under the broiler in the oven until mozzarella melts and starts to bubble and brown.
Garnish with chopped fresh basil and parsley. Serve with extra tomato sauce on the side.
NOTES and RESOURCES
- Cauliflower: Cutting the cauliflower into "steaks" makes the dish feel like more of a main to me, and is also just easier to do than separating every cauliflower floret. However, the recipe works with cauliflower florets, too. Just adjust the roasting time to account for the smaller pieces.
- Olive Oil. I used this olive oil that's pretty widely available, though it is not organic.
- Kosher Salt. I use this brand Kosher salt in the dark red box
- Tomatoes: I used a box of Pomi Italian tomatoes because that's what I had in the pantry. There is also no shame in using a prepared tomato sauce to make this dish even faster/easier. I would still add garlic, dried herbs, and salt to a prepared tomato sauce because I just would. I am currently loving this all-purpose prepared marinara sauce in a jar.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Panko is a Japanese-style of breadcrumb that is composed of crumbs that are larger and airier than regular fine breadcrumbs, and has more of a "crisp" rather than a "crunch" texture if you know what I mean. This is the panko brand that is in my pantry.
- Mozzarella Cheese: I used a large oval mozzarella cheese, which I cut into thin, round slices. You can use the softer "fresh" mozzarella in liquid brine, but I wouldn't use burrata, which is too runny, and also I hate the current "trendy" obsession with burrata. I have tried this recipe with plant-based shredded "cheese," and to be honest, while the dish is not bad, the brand I used did not melt nor did it produce the dark, toasted bubbles under the broiler.
- All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
- Advance Cooking. You can make the tomato sauce in advance. However, the recipe comes together so quickly, there's no need to do anything too far in advance
TOOLS and EQUIPMENT
- best large size cutting board to prep the cauliflower
- favorite all-purpose 7-inch chef's knife (expensive but worth it!)
- cast iron oval baker/casserole dish I use for everything
- favorite multi-purpose small condiment bowls
- this produce/vege wash to clean produce