This Cheesy Sheet-Pan Dinner Is the Only Way My Family Will Eat Cauliflower

Step 1: Add cauliflower, tomato sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella to a sheet pan. Step 2: Win at dinner.

September  2, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

I’m crazy about roasted cauliflower—its golden edges, caramelized crevices, and deep, almost nutty sweetness. Most of all, I'm crazy about roasted cauliflower because of its versatility.

One night I can toss it in earthy turmeric and roast it alongside sticky dates; the next night I can dunk it in tahini and shower it with bread crumbs; and the night after that I can nestle it with curry-rubbed chicken thighs and caramelized grapes. On its many merits, roasted cauliflower makes its way to my dinner table often.

But my two children, who are always game to try new foods, have never taken a liking to cauliflower, no matter how I jazz it up. They’ll eat a few bites and scoot the rest to the sides of their plates. Conventional wisdom tells parents that it can take up to 20 times for kids to develop a taste for a given food. My little ones have surely tasted cauliflower three times as much, but still, no dice.

So recently, when trying to come up with a plan for dinner, I spied in my fridge a head of cauliflower and all of the remnants from pizza night earlier that week—and I had one of those lightbulb moments I wish I’d had years ago. Why not give roasted cauliflower the pizza treatment? My kids go crazy for anything that’s been pizza-fied (pizza bagels, pizza dippers, my husband’s pizza burgers), so why not create a cauliflower dish more to their tastes, not just to my own?

So I did what I so often do when contemplating dinner: I grabbed my sheet pan and cranked the oven to 425℉. Next, I cut up the cauliflower into bite-sized chunks, then gathered my pizza toppings: Italian sausage, sliced olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pizza sauce, and Parmesan. I crisped the sausage in a skillet, then tossed everything, including the rendered sausage fat, together on the sheet pan. About half-way through the bake, I remembered the bag of pepperoni in my fridge. I quickly scattered them over the top and returned the pan to the oven.

You can probably guess what happened at the dinner table. My kids fell silent and...they ate! Yes, even the cauliflower. There was no scooting it to the sides of their plates. In fact, there wasn’t anything left on their plates at all. I didn’t say a word as I sat there watching them, thinking to myself how I couldn’t wait to make the dish again.

The next time I tried the recipe, I kept the heart of the dish the same but tweaked two things: Instead of dirtying a skillet, I crisped the sausage right on the hot sheet pan. And near the end of the bake, I added mozzarella—big, torn pieces versus shredded, to create irresistible, oozy pockets of cheese amongst the cauliflower florets.

This one-pan version was an even bigger hit. My husband and kids declared it the best cauliflower I’ve ever made, and I really can’t disagree. Sure, there’s no denying the power of crispy pepperoni and melty mozzarella, but even the cauliflower, deeply ruddy and blistered from the tomato sauce and Parmesan, was next-level.

I keep wondering if my kids’ excitement about it will extend to other cauliflower dishes. But until my next lightbulb moment, I’m perfectly content making this dish and enjoying it right alongside my kids.

What's your favorite way to eat cauliflower? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


Emma L. September 3, 2019
Saved! Can't wait to make this.
Author Comment
EmilyC September 4, 2019
Yay, hope you like it Emma! : )
Gabriele A. September 3, 2019
What a lovely recipe! There is a touch of Italy on the plate! -