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Cheese/ Hearty Dinners/ Pasta

Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake

December 5, 2022 (Last Updated: March 16, 2024) by Chris Collins

All the deliciousness of a classic cauliflower cheese turned into the most incredible pasta bake!

Cauliflower cheese is one of my all-time favourite side dishes. I mean, when you slather most foods in cheese and bake it, you’re on to a winner. But cauliflower just takes on all that deliciousness so well. The only thing better than cauliflower cheese though? Cauliflower cheese pasta bake. Follow me…

close up shot of cauliflower cheese pasta fresh out the oven garnished with bacon

Roasted Cauliflower

Put the pot of boiling water away, put the steamer away, put it all away. Roasting cauliflower is the superior method and here’s why:

  1. When you boil/steam cauliflower it tends to cling on to the water. It then releases it when baked, resulting in a watery pasta bake.
  2. The caramelization/light charring from roasting develops extra flavour, which you can’t get by boiling/steaming!

I typically roast it in the baking dish I’m using for the pasta bake itself, just for less washing up. You can use a separate tray if you’d prefer, but the main thing to make sure the cauliflower is somewhat spaced out. If it’s all crammed on top of each other it’s just going to steam instead of roast. The photo below is right at the limit of what you want spacing-wise.

Process shot: coat cauliflower in oil, salt & pepper (photo 1), roast (photo 2).

2 step by step photos showing how to roast cauliflower

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

Okay, roasted cauliflower is great and all. But quite frankly, bring on the cheese. We’re going to be making a classic cheese sauce with butter, flour, milk and cheese, but we’re going to sub some of the milk out for vegetable stock. Just to add some depth of flavour.

What kind of cheese to use?

Here I use Gruyere and Cheddar. Gruyere has a gorgeous sweet and nutty flavour that pairs beautifully with creamy sauces AND cauliflower.

Cheese Sauce Seasoning

Just for a little extra ‘umph’, we’re going to add in some onion & garlic powder, with some white pepper and nutmeg. Alongside those flavour boosters, I love adding in some dijon mustard too.

Process shots: melt butter (photo 1), add flour (photo 2), stir (photo 3), whisk in milk & stock (photo 4), stir in cheese (photo 5), stir in seasoning & dijon (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to make cauliflower cheese sauce

Cauliflower Cheese Pasta

When it comes to pasta, I love using Conchiglie. Mainly because the sauce gets caught inside, but realistically you can use any kind of short-cut pasta. The main thing is that you only cook it until al dente. Reason being is that it’ll continue cooking whilst in the oven, so if you cook your pasta to packet instruction it’s going to be too soft and sludgy once it’s out of the oven.

Pasta Bake Topping

Now you could finish the pasta with some sort of crumb topping before baking, but since we’re doing it cauliflower cheese style, it’d be rude not to finish with more cheese. You’ll only need to roughly cover the top, some exposed pasta works nicely because it goes crispy. Once baked, I love finishing with crispy bacon (do I need to justify this!?). I recommend cooking this at the same time as the pasta bake, so it’s perfectly crisp when ready to serve.

Process shots: stir in pasta (photo 1), stir in cauliflower (photo 2), add to baking dish (photo 3), top with cheese (photo 4), bake (photo 5), top with bacon (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to make cauliflower cheese pasta bake

Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake FAQ

Do I have to use Gruyere?

Cheddar cauliflower pasta is a popular combo, so if for whatever reason you don’t have/want Gruyere just stick with cheddar.

Do I have to add the bacon?

I do highly recommend adding it if you can. Cheese + cauliflower + pasta + BACON!? Gotta be done. Having said that I have made it without in the past and it’s still delicious.

close up shot of cauliflower cheese pasta bake with black serving spoon digging in

Serving Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake

Once it’s out of the oven, I usually let it sit for a few mins, at least until it stops bubbling. Mainly so I don’t burn the roof of my mouth off, but also because it gives the pasta bake a final chance to reform its shape and thicken up a little.

Looking for more similar recipes? Check out my Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese and Broccoli Pasta Bake!

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this cauliflower cheese pasta bake shall we?!

close up shot of cheesy cauliflower pasta in white bowl with silver fork blurred in background

How to make Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)

close up shot of cauliflower cheese pasta bake with black serving spoon digging in

Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake

All the deliciousness of a classic cauliflower cheese turned into the most incredible pasta bake!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 4
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: British / Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 925kcal
Cost per serving: £2.50 / $3

Equipment:

  • 9" x 9" Baking Dish (or similar size)
  • Large Baking Tray
  • Large Pan, Wooden Spoon & Whisk
  • Jug
  • Cheese Grater
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board

Ingredients (check list):

  • 1 medium/large head of Cauliflower, diced into bite-sized florets (whole head should weigh around 850g/1.8lb before being diced)
  • 10.5oz / 300g Short Cut Pasta, here I use Conchiglie
  • 2 cups / 480ml Milk, at room temp
  • 1 cup / 240ml Veg Stock
  • 1 cup / 100g Cheddar, grated (plus more to top)
  • 1 cup / 100g Gruyere, grated (see notes)
  • 4 - 5 slices of Bacon
  • 4 tbsp EACH: Flour, Butter
  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 tsp EACH: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, White Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp Salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 pinches of Ground Nutmeg
  • 1.5 tbsp Olive Oil

Instructions:

  • Add cauliflower florets to a baking dish or tray and combine with 1.5 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp black pepper. Roast in the oven at 200C/400F for around 20mins, or until lightly charred and fork tender (toss once throughout). Timings will depend on the size of the florets, so just be vigilant. You don't need them completely soft as they'll carry on cooking in the pasta bake.
  • With around 8-10mins to go, add the pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente. You want it still a touch hard, otherwise, it'll end up too soft once baked. Drain when needed.
  • Meanwhile, melt 4 tbsp butter in a large pan over medium heat and stir in 4 tbsp flour. Gradually add in 1 cup of veg stock then 2 cups of milk, whisking as you go to avoid lumps forming. Once the sauce is thick and bubbly, turn off the heat and stir through 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup gruyere. Stir in 1 heaped tsp dijon alongside 1/4 tsp garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, salt and 2 pinches nutmeg.
  • Stir in the drained pasta alongside the roasted cauliflower. Pour into a baking dish then roughly cover with more cheddar. Place the dish on a baking tray and pop in the oven at the same temp for 20-25mins, or until deep golden and bubbly. At this point, you can cook the bacon, either in the oven or on the stove.
  • Dice the bacon, scatter over the pasta bake then tuck in and enjoy!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Gruyere - Gruyere has a gorgeous sweet and nutty twang to it, which works perfectly in this recipe. You'll find it in nearly all supermarkets/grocery stores. If you don't have it/want to use it, you can sub more cheddar. Do use it though if you can!
b) Al dente pasta - Like mentioned in the method, you want to boil the pasta until it's just al dente. Any more and it'll turn sloppy when baking.
c) Bacon - This really takes to the dish to the next level, so definitely add it if you can. The reason I bake it separately is so it stays nice and crisp, to make the perfect topping.
d) Calories - Whole recipe divided by 4 assuming 5 slices bacon and 1/2 cup/50g to top.

Your Private Notes:

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 925 Calories from Fat 496
% Daily Value*
Fat 55.16g85%
Saturated Fat 22.279g111%
Trans Fat 1.014g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.822g
Monounsaturated Fat 13.718g
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 1073mg45%
Potassium 920mg26%
Carbohydrates 76.9g26%
Fiber 10.5g42%
Sugar 8.6g10%
Protein 33.64g67%
Vitamin A 1343IU27%
Vitamin C 48.5mg59%
Calcium 705mg71%
Iron 1.81mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Megan
    April 5, 2023 at 3:38 am

    5 stars
    Soooo delicious! Absolutely love this recipe! The second time I made it, I added sautéed mushrooms instead of bacon, and of course it’s still amazing! I also have to credit this recipe for my newfound love of Gruyère cheese!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 5, 2023 at 9:52 am

      So glad this went down well, Megan! Thanks so much for the review! C.

  • Reply
    Rachel
    December 8, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    5 stars
    Family absolutely loved this. Going on the rotations. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Lynn
    December 6, 2022 at 11:14 pm

    Chris, this looks amazing! I’ll be trying it this week. Quick question, though. Could this be prepped up early in the day and then cooked later for our evening meal? Thanks, Lynn

  • 5 KNOCKOUT

    DINNERS

    YOU'LL NEVER STOP MAKING!

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