Andy Bennett's Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Carbonara

November 29, 2017

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Though this is a pasta hugged by cream sauce—with all the warm, fuzzy feelings such a thing has to offer—it’s made mostly of vegetables, with no cream or egg. You’d counterintuitively call this cream-saucy pasta light—fresh, even. The secret is that cauliflower’s cell walls are naturally abundant in pectin, which helps the cooked vegetable thicken voluptuously when blended. It’s frankly a wonder we hadn’t been pouring it over our pastas (and everything else) before. Adapted from chef Andy Bennett and Rouge Tomate Chelsea.Genius Recipes

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min


Pasta Carbonara

  • 1 tablespoon (12g) olive oil
  • 1 cup (100g) sliced spring onions or green onions
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 cup (200g) Creamy Cauliflower Sauce (from below)
  • 2 cups dried pasta, (250g) cooked al dente pasta (from about 125g dry pasta—for the rigatoni we used, this was about 2 cups dry pasta)
  • 2/3 cup (90g) fresh or frozen green peas, cooked in salted water
  • 1/2 cup Scant, (10g) chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons (12g) finely grated Parmesan
  • Smoked sea salt, to taste (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (4g) toasted breadcrumbs, or more to taste

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

  • 2 cups (200g) cauliflower florets (in roughly 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 2 1/4 cups (500g) vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup (100g) olive oil
  • Salt to taste
In This Recipe


Pasta Carbonara

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the onions and garlic are turning light golden. Add the sauce, pasta, and peas and heat everything through, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
  2. Once hot, stir in the cheese and parsley, season with smoked salt and black pepper to taste and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the cauliflower with vegetable stock and simmer, partially covered, until really tender, about 20 minutes. Blend the cauliflower and stock till smooth with a blender or hand blender. While the blender is running, slowly pour in olive oil to emulsify.
  2. Store any leftovers airtight in the refrigerator and use as a creamy sauce, warm or cold.

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|Italian|Cauliflower|Parsley|Pea|Vegetable|Easter|Christmas|Valentine's Day|Winter|Fall|Father's Day

Reviews (46) Questions (0)

46 Reviews

Macheese October 27, 2018
Oh also I’m currently vegan so no Parmesan and the onion garlic cauliflower water + salt was flavorful enough
Macheese October 27, 2018
So my first time making this (apologize for not following to a t). Put a 1/2 head of cauliflower on the steamer rack of my instantpot draped a 1/2 onion over it and a clove of garlic with 1/2” water and did manual for 2 minutes. With pressure building and release that was probably <10 minutes. Then dumped most of the water since I read comments and immersion blended it (onion and garlic no broth) with olive oil. I’ve eaten 1/2 of it already from the pot. I’m about to make the pasta as suggested! I love it as is and instantpot lets you walk the dog :)
hmcgivney September 24, 2018
How long do you think the sauce would last in the fridge? I made it 4 days ago and plan on using the rest to bind together a casserole.
janice September 22, 2018
I agree the sauce was so watery. I kept reading the recipe over again to make sure I didn't make a mistake.<br />
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Janice, I'm sorry to hear the sauce was watery and that I missed a few others' prior comments on that note. Many other people in the comments have made it successfully as well, so I don't think it's inherently an issue with the ratios—I wonder if the oil isn't emulsifying in well, if it's not being poured in slowly enough while blending? (Kind of like if you try to make a mayo or aioli and it breaks, it goes from thick and creamy to broken and liquidy.) If so I might try blending more and maybe following the steps for fixing a broken aioli here (but using a little water or stock to start instead of the egg yolk):
Eh444 May 9, 2018
The sauce was so watery?! 400g cauli wth 1L of stock was more watery than soup(I doubled recipe) that right? I wish i had followed my instinct and microplaned the garlic and used less water in the sauce. Anyone else experience this issue?
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Hi there, I'm sorry I missed your comment! If you ever try again and run into the same issue, see my comment to Janice above.
AlexaM April 6, 2018
Love this! I really like peas but I bet you could sub pretty much any veggie (like mushrooms!) if you'd like. I agree with another commenter about adding a little lemon juice. I didn't have lemon so I added a splash of red wine vinegar towards the end to make the flavors a bit brighter. So yummy!
Cheryl January 29, 2018
Dee-licious! I love the cream sauce. I had time to make the sauce with cream (yes--all of the oil!) and peas ahead, but when I went to assemble, I was out of parsley. I'm sure that would have been good too. I made it vegan with vegan "parmesan". The cauliflower taste is minimal and I think the sauce is a good substitute for cream sauce in many dishes. I'll be freezing the sauce and testing to see how that goes. Thank you!
Cheryl January 29, 2018
Oh...and I doubled the peas.
Valerie G. January 12, 2018
Has anyone tried this using significantly less olive oil?
meg January 4, 2018
Seems kind of loose for sauce and yes, the amount of oil alarms me. What if I cook it down? Has anyone tried that?
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Hi there, I'm sorry I missed your comment! If you ever try again and run into the same issue, see my comment to Janice above.
Ann December 21, 2017
This is good. But I'm not sure why I'm making it instead of pasta carbonara. It's not vegan or vegetarian, it has quite a lot of fat, and more steps. So it needs to be good on its own terms (not compared to the easier carbonara), which I suppose it is. Vegan-zing it with nutrional yeast and vegetable stock would make it a more useful dish.
LittleMissMuffin January 11, 2018
how is it not vegetarian? I don't see any meat in the recipe<br />
buteo J. September 23, 2018
It is vegetarian, but not vegan because of the Parmesan.
Rona December 3, 2017
Can you freeze the leftover sauce?
Kristen M. December 3, 2017
I haven't tried, but I think it should be fine—if it separates on thawing, just blend or whisk it back together.
John December 3, 2017
John Carafoli<br />I made what is called "Pasta Cabonara" (maybe should be called in the style). I added sauteed swiss chard with garlic and olive oil, and mushrooms done the same way only with scallions instead of peas. The cream sauce was dull and flat and needed something. I added the zest of a lemon and juice from half of the lemon. It brought everything together!
buteo J. September 23, 2018
Hi John, if I'm not mistaken you and I were next-door neighbors on Sagamore Beach back in the day. If it's you, glad to see you're still cooking!
Tiffany December 1, 2017
Does the recipe for the sauce multiply well? Thanks!
Kristen M. December 1, 2017
Yes it does! But do note that this recipe already makes extra sauce (K Paul noted below that he had half the sauce leftover).
K P. December 1, 2017
Very good flavor. The 1/2 c of olive oil shocked me but the recipe makes too much sauce. I have 1/2 of the sauce left over for another meal. So in effect we ate 1/4 cup of olive oil with the pasta.
Madame P. November 30, 2017
It was not worth the trouble.. really not that good, if you add a bunch of cheese- and find good bread crumbs it could be a *mediocre* substitute (and maybe healthier) than regular kind... but really not that good
OurSeason November 29, 2017
This was delicious!
Terry November 29, 2017
Can you use a bag of cauliflower rice for this? If so, how much?
Kristen M. December 1, 2017
I haven't used it, but it's just minced up cauliflower, right? I don't see why not! It should be the same weight, so 200g or about 7 ounces.
Karen November 29, 2017
Has anybody used Zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of pasta for a low carb dish.
Rebecca D. November 30, 2017
I just made this tonight using Banza chickpea pasta and it was delicious. Nutty and salty and really satisfying.
Dawn S. April 13, 2018
I used up the frozen leftover cauliflower sauce (it froze super, just a little stir to get it back together) with a small amount of homemade pasta (also frozen as I had made too much) & zucchini noodles and the whole thing was divine. Absolutely love this recipe! Regarding the amount of oil, I did add oil to taste when making the sauce. I started tasting around 1/4 cup & added until I was happy with the flavour.
witloof November 29, 2017
If you want to make this recipe completely vegan, I often substitute high quality nutritional yeast {bought in bulk at the health food store} for Parmesan in pesto or to sprinkle on top of vegetables.
Kristen M. November 29, 2017
Love that idea, witloof—I was thinking how great this technique would be for vegans, and that clinches it.
cookinalong November 29, 2017
I got a packet of nutritional yeast in a gift basket a few months ago and had no idea how to use it. Thanks for that idea! Would you do a 1:1 substitution?
witloof November 29, 2017
I would taste it and see what you think. I find it delicious, so I use a lot of it.
Brian C. November 30, 2017
Thank you for verifying that this will work. I was just going to try it tonight.
Nancy November 29, 2017
I am trying to calculate points for weight watchers. Is a serving for 4? Can’t wait to try it.
Ed K. November 29, 2017
Top of the recipe says it serves 2... but I used as a side and it was enuf for the 4 of us to try it.<br />
Kristen M. November 29, 2017
Ed, you're so fast!
Nancy November 29, 2017
Thanks. I missed that.