Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Bake

May  2, 2016
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Cauliflower, in this case, amplifies the joys of a real, delightfully starchy pasta creation rather than standing in for one. Cauliflower creates the base for a creamy, rich, and completely dairy-free alfredo sauce, and the cauliflower florets you don’t use in the sauce are folded into the pasta, which means that you’ll get pockets of savory vegetable goodness between the penne. —Gena Hamshaw

What You'll Need
  • 12 ounces penne pasta (you can use a gluten free penne, such as brown rice penne or quinoa penne, if desired)
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small pieces and florets (about 7 to 8 cups, total)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 small cloves garlic, minced or sliced
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond, soy, or rice milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh green peas, blanched for 1 minute to soften (or frozen and thawed green peas)
  • 1/2 cup vegan breadcrumbs (or vegan and gluten free breadcrumbs, such as Mary's Gone Crackers Just Crumbs)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring every now and then, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it's cooked through but still a little more al dente than you'd want if you were to eat it right away (you may need to adjust cooking time if you use a non-wheat pasta, so check package for cooking instructions and modify your cooking time accordingly). Drain pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water. Toss the pasta with the cooking water to help prevent sticking and set it aside.
  2. Bring another pot of water to boil. Boil the cauliflower for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until it's tender. Drain. Place half of the florets into your blender, reserving the other half.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until it's fragrant and cooked through, but not burning. Blend half of the cauliflower florets with the garlic, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The sauce should be very smooth, so add extra milk or a drizzle of olive oil if needed to achieve a smooth texture.
  4. Lightly oil a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Toss the pasta, the remaining cauliflower florets, the peas, and all of the sauce together. Taste the mixture and add a dash of salt or pepper if desired. Transfer all ingredients to the baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crumbs are toasted and the pasta is bubbly. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anne
  • Shelley Warkentin
    Shelley Warkentin
  • Änneken
  • Cheryl
  • Christine Chandler
    Christine Chandler

13 Reviews

Anne March 8, 2022
I've missed Mac n cheese for years cooking for my lactose intolerant husband and this rich creamy sauce totally won me over! I added about 2/3cup pasta water to thin sauce, 2t dijon for zip and forgot the peas and wow. Somehow the cauliflower doesn't come across as strongly as you think it would and you can easily build it into any flavour profile you like. I'm thinking of you chicken mushroom, or you tuna surprise!
Lily July 16, 2021
This was more delicious than I expected and my family agreed. I sent my spouse with the leftovers on a quick visit to their parent's house. The container came back clean and with a thank you note.
LisaO March 5, 2021
Delicious! My non-vegan husband enjoyed it. I added a little siracha to the sauce and served it with a side of Truffe hot sauce. It's a great base recipe to expand upon.
Shelley W. February 13, 2021
Pretty good but a little bland, in my opinion. If I made it again, I would add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and red chili flakes.
Katie March 28, 2019
Wonderful dish! My husband enjoyed it! I sauteed mushrooms and added it-nice addition to the dish.
Änneken October 25, 2017
This is an awesome vegetable dish. The cauliflower and pea flavors really shine through. Love it!
Kiersten October 1, 2017
I would make this again, but next time I would cover the pan with foil to bake, then take it off at the end to brown the bread crumbs. I think it would also be delicious to add some brussels sprouts.
Cheryl November 17, 2016
Delicious! To use fewer pans, I cooked the cauliflower first and then scooped it out with a wire skimmer. Then cooked pasta in same water. I found the baking took longer, perhaps 30 mins, and in the end, browned the breadcrumbs under the broiler. I would use 2 cups of peas next time plus make the sauce just a tad runnier by adding a little more oil or water. The flavors seemed to meld better after sitting. After dinner I went out for the evening and when I returned, had another helping and it was even better.
Christine C. August 20, 2016
How is this vegan? Pasta has egg??
Alexandra G. August 30, 2016
Most dry pasta from the grocery doesn't contain egg.
CShores November 6, 2017
Is there a substitute for the nutritional yeast?
Nicole S. December 23, 2017
A non-vegan substitute would be grated Parmesan. A vegan substitute might be vegan Parmesan. But now that you’ve got me thinking…you could also add ground walnuts in the place of the nutritional yeast.
Jeff A. April 22, 2020