Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2-on-Tuesday: Penne & Spinach [with Cauliflower] Béchamel

I was in the mood for some pasta and was short on time. It had been a productive day, but I had to leave the house to get some more items accomplished and knew dinner would be really late if I waited. So, I prepared cauliflower béchamel and dry-sautéd the veggies before flying out the door. Some assembly by family would be required.

Béchamel (sounds like bay-shah-mel) is one of the five "Mother Sauces" in cooking. The only reason I know this is due to the many summers with Chef Mike Micco in the kitchen at Camp Jackson as he would teach and quiz me in his chefery skills. Just because it has a fancy French name doesn't mean it's difficult to create. If you're a good Southern cook and know how to whip up some "Toodlum Gravy," you're already using a French culinary technique! Béchamel starts with a roux (sounds like roo...as in kanga) which is equal parts fat (butter) and flour. Apart from the fabulous taste, there is a major problem...it's not plant-based.

Usually, I play with my food and change up recipes to suit my fancy. This time I stuck to the book --Forks Over Knives, page 151-- and think I nailed it. Let it be known that I could eat the entire pan of this sauce for a meal, it was that tasty to me!

Penne & Spinach [with Cauliflower] Béchamel

1 head of  Cauliflower, cut into florets
Unsweetened plain Almond Milk, added to thin the sauce
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (Optional...I don't think so. Yummmm!)
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
S & P, to taste (C'mon, grind your own pepper. You'll taste the diff.)
1 medium Onion, peeled and diced small
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons Thyme
1/4 cup Basil, finely chopped
4 cups Spinach, chopped (It will wilt during the cooking.)
1 lb Penne (whole wheat) pasta, cooked al dente, drained and kept warm
  • Add cauliflower to a large pot and add only enough water to cover the florets. Bring to boil over high heat and cook until cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Drain excess water and puree the cauliflower using an immersion blender or in a blender with a tight fitting lid covered with a towel, in batches.
  • Add almond milk 1 splash at a time to achieve a creamy consistency.
  • Add nutritional yeast, nutmeg and S&P. Set aside.

  • Place diced onion in a large saucepan and dry-sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. To dry-sauté: Instead of oil, add only a splash of water at a time to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan. Too much water will cause the veggies to steam or boil.
  • Add garlic, thyme, basil and cook another minute.
  • Add spinach and cooked pasta and cook for 5 more minutes, or until heated through.
  • To serve, divide pasta mix between plates and top with warm Cauliflower Béchamel.
Does the cauliflower puree remind you of anything? Mashed Potatoes, maybe? Sure! Now, you know how to make a batch of the faux potato. Add less almond milk. New comfort food...veggie style!


  1. That looks so good! I love béchamel and I can't wait to try this healthier version!

    1. Hey, my Canadian Friend! Hope you're well! I plan to post your recipe, soon!