Hot Damn if I don't feel fancy every time I say Gratin. This dish is simple to make, and can be as fancy, or as simple as you want. I chose to make my own sauce because it was Saturday and I had the time. Feel free to use store bought sauce, just pick out a good quality one. I loved the smoky flavor the Sofrito added to the dish, but again it's up to you how complicated you want to get, jarred sauce saves you a good amount of time. I used goat cheese because I ran out of parmesan, but again this is a flexible dish, so use cheese you know and love. I love dishes that make it easy to eat vegetables, and since its similar to mac and cheese this is wonderful to serve to both kids and adults.
Penne and Cauliflower Gratin with a Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce
The Goods: Serves 4-5 as main dish
1/4 cup goat cheese or parmesan
1 small cauliflower (about 4 cups), cut into small florets
1/2 pound whole wheat penne
1 1/4 cups chunky Sofrito or store bought marinara sauce
1 cup half and half or 2% milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped basil or parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop in the cauliflower and cook five minutes, or until just tender. Scoop it out with a strainer and drop it into a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Drop the penne into the water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain it in a colander and shake to remove all moisture. Mix it into the cauliflower.
3. In a large bowl mix together tomato sauce, milk, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, cheese and salt. Pour the sauce into the casserole dish and toss well to mix the sauce, pasta and cauliflower.
4. Combine the bread crumbs and olive oil in a small bowl and mix until evenly moistened. Sprinkle all over the gratin. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until hot, bubbly and golden on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.