roasted cauliflower with walnut pesto

February 8th, 2012

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this may be the best thing I’ve had made this year; and that’s coming from someone who turned up her nose at cauliflower for the first 28 years of her life. Yeah—it’s good. I can’t claim responsibility for the idea though. Aaron and I had brunch at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Roman’s, and innocently ordered a cauliflower panzanella. It was lovely, with big chunky croutons, endive, roasted cauliflower and little smears of walnut pesto. One bite of the cauliflower paired with the walnut pesto and we were blown away. As far as I was concerned, the croutons and endive were lovely, but it was all about the caramelized and crispy cauliflower and that lick-the-plate-worthy walnut pesto. So you know what I did when I got home, right? I set about recreating that magic at home.

First off, roasted cauliflower, like most roasted vegetables, is so easy and the results are phenomenal. After a half hour or so in the oven, the little florets come out golden and crispy, with a caramelized flavor that is so far from anything I would have ever associated with cauliflower as a kid. Honestly, it kind of tastes like candy—rich, nutty and caramely.

But let’s get to the hero of the dish, the walnut pesto. Before we left the restaurant, I made sure to ask what was in the pesto, which seemed to go through different flavor phases—sweet, salty, nutty. We got word from the chef that it was simply walnuts, honey, pecorino cheese, and olive oil. Simple stuff that, when paired together, are a match made in heaven. I played with the proportions a little when I got home and landed on something that was pretty darn close to the original. My pesto turned out a little chunkier, so I ended up tossing little bits of the pesto in with the cauliflower, which I actually really like because it means you get little surprises.

Roasted cauliflower with walnut pesto
serves 4 | makes about 1 cup of pesto

for the roasted cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower, sliced into 1/4-inch thick florets
olive oil

for the walnut pesto:
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt, optional
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°

On a baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with enough oil to cover the florets, about 1 Tablespoon. Spread in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes, flipping half way through. The cauliflower should be golden, some of the bits with be very brown and crispy—it’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Simply toss the walnuts, cheese, and  1 Tablespoon honey in the food processor. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until the ingredients come together and create an oily paste. Taste it, you may need to add the additional teaspoon of honey and/or a pinch of salt, depending on your taste.

To serve, crumble the pesto over the cauliflower, then gently toss it. Enjoy

Comments: 9 Total

  1. Hannah

    February 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Now I can’t wait to get home from the office and stir this up. It looks exactly like the caramelized nutty deliciousness that my so-bored-of-squash-and-potatoes winter palate needs!

  2. Sophie

    February 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    roasted cauliflower is the best! I love it with cumin and fennel seeds with a fried egg and hot sauce on top.

  3. Stacy

    February 9, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    That pesto looks and sounds amaaazing, Kelly! I love roasted cauliflower, and if it’s possible, this might make me love it even more. Thanks for recreating this goodness for all our sake!

  4. Pingback: Food Therapy with Eat Make Read | Public Radio Kitchen

    February 13, 2012 at 9:22 am
  5. rachel

    February 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Made this tonight adapted with what I had on hand: Brussels Sprouts, Pistachios, and Parmesan, and it was SO GOOD. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Nadine

    February 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I had roasted cauliflower with garlic last night. I’m soooo trying this with the other half. Don’t know why I don’t roast veggies every night.

  7. eemusings

    February 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Oh dear lord I love roasted vegetables. Potatoes are my #1 love, but roasted cauliflower is right behind.

  8. willie

    March 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    … try sprinkling a little (1 tbs) fish sauce on with the oil. really ! (it will add a dimension and depth that is astounding)

  9. Pingback: Roasted Cauliflower with Walnut Pesto | Pippi's in the Kitchen Again

    March 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

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