Cauliflower

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.

by:
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?

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Top Comment:
“And rather than put sun-dried tomatoes in the sheet pan, I used them in a side dish: baguette slices topped with soft gouda cheese and sun-dried tomato, baked in the oven during the last 10 mins of the other dish's cooking time. I wish I could have found unsliced pepperoni, because the slices I bought were a bit thin: thick-sliced pepperoni would have been much nicer. But altogether, a big hit! We'll definitely be adding this one to the regular dinners list.”
— Denise
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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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EmilyC

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.

13 Comments

Denise October 12, 2019
I made this recipe a couple nights ago and the whole family loved it. I omitted the olives because I'm not a fan. And rather than put sun-dried tomatoes in the sheet pan, I used them in a side dish: baguette slices topped with soft gouda cheese and sun-dried tomato, baked in the oven during the last 10 mins of the other dish's cooking time. I wish I could have found unsliced pepperoni, because the slices I bought were a bit thin: thick-sliced pepperoni would have been much nicer. But altogether, a big hit! We'll definitely be adding this one to the regular dinners list.
 
Jennifer October 7, 2019
15 year old boy child eats cauliflower for the first time ever!!!! Recipe is definitely a keeper.
 
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EmilyC October 8, 2019
Hooray! This is the best news to get! Thanks so much for trying this! : )
 
Cynthia C. October 4, 2019
Oh my goodness, how ingenious is this and how grateful am I for it! It sounds unreal and in the midst of a kitchen renovation, the perfect low maintenance countertop-oven dinner solution. I couldn’t be more excited to make this for us and for our toddler.
 
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EmilyC October 5, 2019
Thanks so much for the kind words, Cynthia, and so happy this recipe is finding you at the right time! Hope it's a hit, and best of luck with your kitchen renovation!!
 
rox L. October 5, 2019
This sounds so delicious and I'm in a kitchen renovation too. I'm going to use my Traeger at 425 and maybe add pre-roasted chicken too when I add the cauli mixture. Thank you Emily!
 
Alexandra S. October 4, 2019
Emily, this looks so darn good. Couldn't agree/relate to more to every. single. word. Can't wait to try!
 
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EmilyC October 5, 2019
Thanks so much Ali! Glad you can relate to this, and hope your little ones like it if you try it! : )
 
Cait L. October 4, 2019
First of all, I love EmilyC! Second of all, cauliflower is my favorite vegetable and I’ll eat it a thousand ways. Alison Roman’s pasta with cauliflower is incredible. Buffalo cauliflower “wings” are another staple. Timothy Pakron (Mississippi Vegan) has a great roast cauliflower with a delicious almost marinade-like seasoning. I also love a good whole roasted cauliflower. And cauliflower cheese, that odd sounding British dish! Avant Garde Vegan does a wonderful vegan version. Oh and I can’t forget Melissa Clark’s cauliflower parm! Okay, I think that’s all my favorite ways. Heh heh
 
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EmilyC October 5, 2019
Aw, thanks Cait! Thanks so much for sharing all of these favorites -- a great list!
 
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! - https://bit.ly/2krQSID