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Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Pancetta

An easy Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Pancetta (or Bacon!) is loaded with flavor and serves as the perfect, healthy-ish low-carb dish. Whether you call it a casserole or gratin, it’s the best side dish for the holiday season. Enjoy it throughout the week or bring it to a potluck to share the cheesy goodness with all your friends!

cheesy cauliflower bake with pancetta in cast iron skillet with wooden spoon on kitchen towel

Is there anything that can’t be made with cauliflower?? We now live in this funny world where cauliflower can be turned into just about anything. And this cheesy cauliflower bake is like a mash-up between mac and cheese and potatoes au gratin. We love doing healthy swaps like this during the week, but this cauliflower cheese recipe can be made for any potluck or party. It works as the perfect side dish for the holidays, too!

But the main reason I love this cheesy cauliflower bake so much is that it’s the perfect dish to swap out a heavy carb for something lighter, while still having TONS of flavor. Very similar to my Healthy Pad Thai or Sheet Pan Salmon, if I do say so myself. And the pancetta in this cheesy cauliflower bake is completely optional. I like it for that extra meaty bite, but you can omit it to please all your vegetarian friends! Cheese, cauliflower and a little savory goodness – your friends will never know what hit ’em!

cauliflower, shredded cheese, garlic, rosemary, scallions, pancetta, cream, butter on wooden cutting board

Cheesy Cauliflower Bake Ingredients

  • Cauliflower
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Garlic
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Milk
  • Heavy Cream
  • Salt + Black Pepper
  • Fresh Herbs (Rosemary + Thyme)
  • Crispy Cubed Pancetta
  • White Cheddar Cheese
  • Roth Grand Cru Cheese for an ultra cheesy cauliflower bake!
  • Green Onions

butter and flour in copper saute pan

cauliflower, cheese, rosemary, thyme and pancetta in cast iron skillet with wooden spoon

How To Make Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and grease a casserole dish for the cheesy cauliflower bake. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from water and place into an ice bath to blanch.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in flour until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly add in the milk and heavy cream while continuing to whisk. Add salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove cream mixture from heat and whisk in shredded white cheddar and 1 cup of shredded Grand Cru cheese for the cheesy sauce recipe.
  3. In the prepared casserole dish, arrange the cauliflower pieces and pancetta. Mix in the cheese mixture until evenly coated, then top with the remaining Roth Grand Cru cheese. Bake the cheesy cauliflower bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Top with fresh green onions and enjoy!

cauliflower florets with water in copper pot with stainless steel spoon

Is It Better To Boil or Steam Cauliflower?

I prefer the boiling method for this cheesy cauliflower bake, aka blanching and shocking. But feel free to steam the cauliflower florets if you prefer! Boil or steam the cauliflower just until it becomes tender, or even a minute or two beforehand, and immediately shock in ice-cold water. The cauliflower is going to continue to cook in the oven, so it is best to undercook it by just a bit to prevent the vegetable from becoming mushy.

cheesy cauliflower casserole in cast iron skillet being scooped with wooden spoon

How To Freeze Baked Cauliflower Casserole with Pancetta

To freeze properly, cool the cheesy cauliflower bake completely, double-wrap in plastic wrap and then cover with foil. The cauliflower and cheese will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To reheat, defrost the cheesy cauliflower bake overnight in the fridge, remove the wrapping, cover with a new piece of foil and rewarm in a 350 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes, or until completely warmed through.

wooden spoon scooping easy cheesy cauliflower bake with pancetta in cast iron skillet

Tips For The Best Cheesy Cauliflower Bake

  • Blanch (or steam) the cauliflower and shock in cold water. This prevents the cauliflower from overcooking and becoming mushy while baking in the oven.
  • To reach the right consistency on the cheesy cream mixture, cook it until nappe, or thick enough until it coats the back of a spoon.
  • Replace half the cauliflower with 1 large or 2 small heads broccoli to make a cheesy cauliflower broccoli bake.
  • Make an extra crispy topping by sprinkling 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs on top of the cheesy cauliflower casserole before baking.
  • Make a vegetarian cheesy cauliflower bake by simply omitting the pancetta.

More Cauliflower Recipes You’ll Love:

If you make this Cheesy Cauliflower Bake recipe, I’d love to know how it goes! Please share with all fraaands in the comments below! For more easy recipes and ideas, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, too! ♥

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cheesy cauliflower bake with pancetta in cast iron skillet with wooden spoon on kitchen towel

Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Pancetta

  • Author: Elizabeth
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

An easy Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Pancetta is the best baked casserole dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Serve it as a side dish at your next party!


Scale

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces

¼ cup unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon minced rosemary

1 Tablespoon thyme sprigs

1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Roth Grand Cru Cheese, shredded

8 ounces cubed, crispy pancetta

green onions, for garnish


Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a casserole dish and set aside.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add cauliflower and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from water and place into an ice bath to blanch/stop the cooking. Cauliflower will continue to bake in the oven and you don’t want it to get mushy.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Whisk in flour to butter mixture and cook until smooth and golden in color, about 1-2 minutes. 

Slowly add in the milk and heavy cream whisking as your pour. Add in salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme to cream mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes, the mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove cream mixture from heat and whisk in shredded white cheddar and 1 cup of shredded Grand Cru cheese until smooth.

In the casserole dish, arrange the cauliflower pieces and pancetta. Mix in the cheese mixture evenly. Top with extra cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and the top is golden brown. Top with green onions and enjoy!


Notes

Replace half the cauliflower with 1 large or 2 small heads broccoli.

Omit the pancetta for a vegetarian cheesy cauliflower bake.

Keywords: Cheesy Cauliflower Bake, Cheese and Cauliflower Bake, Cauliflower Cheese Recipe, Easy Cheesy Cauliflower

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