Ever since I came up with the recipe for my Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken, I’ve been daydreaming how else I can get me some of that addictive buffalo sauce into my eating life. Cheese + garlic + chilli = very happy, very satisfied JoJo. Hungry Hubby may be less thrilled with the chilli element but once I cut it in half, he barely broke into a sweat #result.
The next recipe I came up with is my Buffalo Cauliflower Pasta Bake, which I think is best described as the hot sauce anointed love child of an oozy mac ‘n’ cheese and a “pretending to be good for you ‘cos it has veg in it” cauliflower cheese. Long before I discovered how fabulous a homemade mac ‘n’ cheese could be, I was eating my body weight in cauliflower cheese – a British staple, often as a side dish for a roast dinner.
Ever since I discovered Sriracha, I’ve been looking for excuses to use it and the vicious, spikey, with a hint of vinegary tang works beautifully against the simple creamy cheese sauce that you tumbled the florets of cauliflower and al dente pasta shapes, before briefly baking with extra cheese on top. I can make this in under 30 minutes so it’s perfect for midweek meals.
A word about how to make the sauce here. I make a roux (butter plus flour) into which you whisk milk, which bar a little seasoning gives you white sauce suitable for uses in lasagne amongst many others. It’s a basic French sauce from which numerous variations can be made. Since my Daddums was diagnosed as Coeliac, I’ve had gluten free flour in my cupboard and in an attempt to use it up, I started using it for my sauces and discovered it makes a far better white sauce than ordinary plain white flour.
You see, it has greater ability to absorb liquid so makes a thicker sauce, and it seems to dissolve more readily into the milk so it almost never forms the hard little clumps you can get otherwise. You can just use plain flour without changing the quantities in the recipe but if you have gluten free plain flour in the cupboard already, give it a try – I consider it my secret weapon in sauce making! Just be mindful that the recipe isn’t gluten free, although so don’t go feeding my Buffalo Cauliflower Pasta Bake to the Coeliacs in your life! Not to say you can’t adapt it if that’s what you need to do :)
- Approx 165g dried fusilli*
- 1 small head of cauliflower broken into small, evenly sized florets
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp gluten free plain flour**
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 250 ml milk I use 1% fat
- 2 tbsp Sriracha chilli sauce
- 3 rounded tbsp Philadelphia cream cheese or mascarpone
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- Sea salt to season
- 3-4 tbsp Double Gloucester or Red Leicester cheese grated
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Bring a big sauce pan of water to the boil then drop in the dried pasta. Bring to the boil again then drop in the cauliflower and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the pasta and veg are al dente. Drain when ready, reserving half a cup worth of cooking water for later.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan and whisk in the flour. Whisk in the garlic once all the flour has been absorbed and over medium heat, dribble in the milk gradually, whisking all the time.
Whisk in the Sriracha, cream cheese/masacarpone, parsley and spring onions. Season quite confidently with salt if you haven't salted the pasta/veg water.
Put the drained pasta and cauliflower into the large sauce pan again and add the sauce. Stir very well to coat and dribble in the reserved cooking water if it looks a little dry.
Pour into a greased oven proof dish and grated over the Double Gloucester or Red Leicester cheese and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has browned and the pasta bake is piping hot. Serve with a crunchy green salad on the side.
*= fusilli holds the sauce well but you could use bow ties, penne, or macaroni although that would cook faster as it's smaller tubes. And I never actually weigh it in reality! Simply eyeball about a third of a 500g bag and that will be plenty.
**= you can use ordinary plain flour but the GF stuff absorbs more liquid, more quickly and makes an infinitely better white sauce/roux.