Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Photo – The Iron You

So THIS recipe for the CREAMY CAPRESE CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE (seen above) showed up in my email box & I could not resist.  Apparently, they were inspired by another of my favorite food blogs – How Sweet It Is – but I was unable to find her recipe.

I would have been happy to make this with cauliflower only but once I roasted my medium head of cauliflower florets – they shrunk to a portion too small – so I added leftover pasta from my Vegan Pasta with Sausage, Arugula & Tomatoes – seen below.

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I will confess to using half real cheese & half vegan cheese in this.  I used the leftover mozzarella from my Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar – seen above – as the topping cheese (and a few shreds of real Parmesan) – but I used a lot of this cheese below – that I gave a bad review to yesterday.  I did not want to waste the tastier vegan cheeses I have & I felt this stuff seemed most likely to melt into a binding element in this casserole – and I think I was correct.

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This is not a complicated recipe & is likely to be a crowd pleaser – whether you make it vegan or not.

Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

Feeds 6


1 large head of cauliflower – cut into florets

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

4 TBS tomato paste

1 cup almond (or soy) milk

1 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)

2 cups shredded or fresh mozzarella (or vegan alternative)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes – halved

2 large handfuls basil – shredded or chopped

Olive oil

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper

3 garlic cloves

3 cups cooked pasta (about 1/2 lb dry)


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Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with olive oil & some S&P.  Bake for 30 minutes – tossing once at the 15 minute mark.  Set aside.  Lower oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile – heat a TBS olive oil in a stock pan on low heat.  Add the crushed red pepper & the garlic & cook one minute.  Add the tomato sauce (being careful not to get splattered) & the tomato paste.  Heat through.  Add the milk, 1/2 the mozzarella, all of the Parmesan, 1/2 the halved tomatoes and a good handful of shredded basil & combine.  Season with S&P.

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Add the cauliflower & pasta & toss well.

Put into a greased casserole pan & top with the remaining mozzarella & tomatoes.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven to 500 degrees & cook another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to turn golden.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes & then garnish with shredded basil.

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Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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So – I saw THIS post from The Skinny Fork on Pinterest & was intrigued by the olive oil caviar.  I promptly Googled it & about $75 later – I had 4 little jars of the stuff in different flavors.   I bought it HERE.

This is what they say about it at

“About Caviaroli ®

DSC_0184Caviaroli is fine Spanish olive oil that is encapsulated to mimic the delicate refinement of caviar.  The concept transpired back in 2008 when Ferrán Adrià created this innovative product and produced it in small quantities, inspiring others to take part in this surprising enterprise.  Pere Castells, technical director of Fundació Alicia, introduced olive oil caviar to the Caviaroli team and helped begin research on production.  For two years, the team worked enjoyably at mastering the technology which initially was a challenge.  Finally, the first olive oil caviar was created outside of El Bulli’s kitchen, and soon it was presented to Ferràn Adrià, who promptly ordered 10kg in less than a week.  Adrià considered this new caviar good enough to be served at El Bulli, the restaurant where he worked as head chef.  He even presented the product in a lecture at Harvard, saying that “soon the olive oil caviar will be available,” and in jest added, “…but it can only be done with Spanish olive oil”, encouraging the use of quality grade Spanish products.

In  2011 at the Australian Fine Food’s Show, Caviaroli won “Best new Foodservice product award”, and in 2012 the production plant in Spain was registered and Caviaroli was approved by the FDA.  Stored in a sleek glass bottle, the Caviar will stay fresh for up to twelve months–the same as regular bottled olive oil.”


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There it it!  Cool looking, no?  I used a basil flavored one.  I did not add the traditional basil to my dish here because I knew fresh basil would overpower the caviar & I wanted to experience it.  (I also think balsamic vinegar overpowers caprese salads & never add it.)  The olive oil caviar tastes strongly of olive oil – the basil flavor is barely a tiny hint.

If you do not want to invest in something like this caviar – just drizzle olive oil & add some fresh chopped basil to your caprese.   By the way – caprese is pronounced like this:

It is “ca-pray’-zay.”  Not “ca-preece.”

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This is as easy as cutting stuff up.  Use as much of each ingredient as suits your tastes & the number of mouths you are feeding.

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar


Heirloom or regular tomatoes – sliced

Fresh mozzarella – sliced

Avocado – sliced or cubed

Olive oil caviar – or regular olive oil

Fresh basil (optional but traditional) – sliced – or even a thin drizzle of basil pesto

S&P to taste

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Assemble & serve.

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Peach & Tomato Caprese Pizza with Mozarella, Basil & Balsamic Reduction

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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That photo above has nothing to do with this recipe.  But – I bought figs at the farmer’s market the other day & they photograph so gorgeously – I could not resist snapping this pic of them & that lush hunk of Saint Andre.  Dairy is something I am increasingly cutting out of my diet but – holy mother of God – that that cheese on some crusty bread & topped with a fig?  Criminy! I am desperate for vegan cheese to do what vegan meats (especially Beyond Meat) have done – namely – evolve into a really great vegan alternative to cruelty-based foods.

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So – my boss gave me a perfectly ripe peach the other day.  I let it sit, in all its aromatic glory, on my desk all day as I pondered what to do with it.  I then remembered that I had homemade pizza dough in the fridge & from that fact alone – this pizza was born.  At the end of the work day, I sauntered out, proudly declaring that a peach pizza was about to happen – and happen it did.

I wasn’t sure if I would like hot peach pizza so I decided to hedge my bet a bit & made this a twofer.  I did not have Gorgonzola or goat cheese – cheeses that might cut the sweet of the peach so I decided to drizzle it with a balsamic reduction.  I am happy to announce that the peach side was even more delicious than the traditional side.  I did not cook the peach at all first but you could grill yours first if you want to maybe give the pizza that extra layer of flavor. It is completely unnecessary, though.


Simply boil a nice balsamic until it reduces by about 30-75% and has a thick syrupy texture.  It really does reduce a LOT so – if it reduces to too little for your pizza – just boil down some more.  Be careful not to burn it! I used about a tablespoon of the reduction on this pizza.

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Peach & Tomato Caprese Pizza with Mozarella, Basil & Balsamic Reduction

Serves as many as you like – depending on how much dough & ingredients you have


(the amount of each is up to your personal taste)

Pizza dough (I used this one)

Peaches – pitted & sliced 1/4 inch thick

Tomato sauce (I used Rao’s Arrabbiata)

Fresh mozzarella (or vegan alternative) – sliced

Fresh Basil

Cherry or grape tomatoes – quartered (optional)

Balsamic reduction (recipe above in bold)

Parchment paper (optional)

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Heat the oven to 500 degrees & be sure it reaches temperature before putting your pizza in there.

Make the balsamic reduction.  Set aside.

Cover a cooking sheet with parchment paper.  And old metal pan.  Pizza stones suck.  PARCHMENT PAPER is magic.  Or – grease a cooking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil.

Roll the dough out & put it on the pan.  Spread sauce on one half of the pizza & arrange the peach slices on the other.  Top with cheese.  Cook until it is the way you like it – typically 10-15 minutes.  Top with basil & cherry tomatoes & drizzle the peach side (or both sides) with the balsamic.


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Caprese Lasagna Rolls


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.


All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.


I WROTE A NOVEL!  Please read it!  🙂

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Pardon me for revisiting this concept so soon after my Cheesy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rolls but this dish is so simple & such a sure-fire crowd pleaser – I just had to go back to the well.  I had dinner guests last night – most of whom I have never fed before – so I was unaware of any food objections they might have (high on the list of “controversial” foods are: eggplant, beets, mushrooms, seafood, spicy things, garlic, peas).   So – I decided to make something I thought nobody could object to – these caprese rolls.  Of course, tomatoes are often cited by wary diners as something to avoid but – everyone likes lasagna – right?  So I risked it.  I liked these better than the previous effort & found them far prettier.   They were a huge hit – even with the teenager in attendance so – I hope you give them a go!


Caprese Lasagna Rolls (this makes about 16)

For the marinara

1-2 TBS olive oil

2 (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce

1 small onion – finely diced

3 cloves garlic – minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

S&P to taste

For the caprese lasagna rolls

1 lb lasagna noodles

2 cups ricotta

2 eggs

5-6 Roma tomatoes – sliced VERY thin

2/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 lb grated low moisture (packaged) mozzarella (or blend)


1 cup fresh basil – cut into ribbons


Heat the oven to 350

For the marinara

Heat the olive oil & saute the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic & stir for about a minute.  Add the other ingredients & simmer 30 minutes or so.  Adjust S&P.  Set aside.


For the caprese lasagna rolls

Cook the lasagna as directed & when they are just done, drain them & rinse them under cold water.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan and most of the grated mozzarella.  Reserve some cheese to top the rolls.


Cut your basil into ribbons like these tutorials show or by rolling several leaves at a time into long rolls & then slicing them up.

Assemble to rolls by putting some of the cheese on each piece of lasagna, adding some tomato & basil & gently roll without applying any pressure so that the contents do not squeeze out.


Put a thin layer of marinara in a baking dish & place the rolls, seam side down, in the pan.  Top with enough sauce to cover each roll (so they do not dry out) & top with extra cheese.




Cover tightly with foil (or they will dry out) and bake for about 30 minutes.  Serve with additional sauce & basil.

I cut into one to show you the melty goodness!  MANGIARE!



Fresh Burrata Caprese Salad – Fresh Mozzarella with Heirloom Tomatoes & Basil Chiffonade

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I covered this once before in July but it is worth a second peek.

First of all, caprese is pronounced ca-pray-zay with the emphasis on pray.  Another Italian menu item rampantly mispronounced is bruschetta.  It is not – as is so commonly thought – pronounced brush-etta – but rather brusketta.   You are less likely to get corrected by anyone if you say brushetta, because most people think this is the proper pronunciation, but nobody from Italy wold ever correct your saying brusketta.  Anyway…

Burrata – definition courtesy Wikipedia:

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is also defined by some sources as an outer shell of mozzarella filled with butter or a mixture of butter and sugar. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. The name “burrata” means “buttered” in Italian.

Burrata is gaining in popularity and with that comes greater accessibility.  If you have COSTCO in your region – Costco has been carrying it & it is reasonably priced.  Sometimes Trader Joe’s has it – also at a fair price.  At these places – it comes the way buffalo mozzarella does – floating in water in a plastic container in the refrigerated section.  If you are lucky enough to have a fine cheese shop or, even better, an authentic Italian market around – you are about to be in heaven.  These places will likely have it stored in water or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap – and sitting out at room temperature – as it should be.

Burrata is a very mildly flavored cheese and it shouldn’t have to compete with anything to be experienced at its best. Sliced, ripe tomatoes, shredded basil and some salt & pepper is all I would suggest.  Ever.  If you want to get fancy, you can cut your basil in the chiffonade style – which is just to roll the basil into tubes the long way & then slice into thin strips.  It creates little basil ribbons.  Pretty – but not entirely necessary.

Heirloom tomatoes are nice here (with burrata) because they tend to be genuinely ripe – rather than dyed red (or yellow or green).  They are very costly, though.  I paid $4 for one yellow/orange heirloom tomato yesterday, where the “vine-ripe” tomatoes were only $1.49 lb.   The heirlooms were closer to $5 a pound.  But there really is a huge difference.

In my opinion, burrata isn’t good for cooking because it is far too wet & too mild to compete flavor-wise.  On its own, it is a creamy delight.  Serve it as pictured and maybe serve some crusty bread & a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc you are good to go!



Fresh Burrata Caprese Salad – Fresh Mozzarella with Heirloom Tomatoes & Basil Chiffonade


About 1 very ripe tomato per person – sliced

Enough Burrata (or fresh mozzarella if burrat is unavailable) to cover the tomato slices – sliced

Lots of shredded, chopped basil or basil chiffonade

S&P to taste


Slice your tomatoes about 1/2 inch think.  Same with the cheese.  Top the tomatoes with the cheese, basil and S&P.  Voila!