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This creamy baked cauliflower gratin combines fresh cauliflower in a cheese sauce with mascarpone, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. It bakes in about 25 minutes and is very simple to assemble ahead of time. Pair with a roasted chicken, buttered green beans, or balsamic glazed onions for a festive vegetable side dish.
This cauliflower gratin (or cauliflower au gratin) is one of those easy vegetable recipes that gives you all the comfort of a baked cheesy casserole, without much fuss.
Plus it’s a snap to make: Bake the cauliflower florets with creamy mixture of mascarpone cheese, garlic, heavy cream, freshly grated Parmesan and chopped aromatic fresh herbs.
This simple dish is perfect for holidays, or any time you want a vegetable side dish (that’s NOT sweet potato casserole) that everyone at the table will want to taste. If you enjoy creamy baked fennel or potato casserole with layers of cheese, this recipe will seem familiar.
List of ingredients
- Fresh cauliflower: You’ll need one large or two small/medium heads of cauliflower, enough to make 8 cups of florets. The florets are blanched for a few minutes before baking to ensure tenderness.
- Mascarpone: This thick Italian-style soft cheese is less tangy and gummy-textured than cream cheese, and has a delicious nutty taste. You can find it in the dairy section of most grocery stores.
- Heavy cream: Use heavy whipping cream for the best texture (not half and half).
- Flour: All-purpose flour or your preferred gluten-free all-purpose blend lightly thickens the cheese sauce as it bakes.
- Garlic: Use 1-2 cloves of grated fresh garlic to infuse the cream sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: Use freshly grated cheese for the best flavor. Gruyere cheese or a good aged white cheddar are good substitutes.
- Fresh herbs: Use one or a variety of aromatic fresh herbs, such as sage, rosemary or thyme.
Creamy Cauliflower Gratin with Mascarpone
- 3 pounds (1.5 kg) cauliflower (about 1 large or 2 medium heads), separated into florets (8 cups)
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) softened butter
- 4 ounces (125 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, thyme or sage (or a combination)
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a rasp grater or pressed in a garlic press
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 (220 C) degrees, with the oven rack positioned in the center of the oven.
- Blanch the cauliflower in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with a towel.
- Spread the butter over the bottom of 3-4 quart shallow gratin or baking dish. Arrange the cauliflower in the dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the mascarpone, cream, flour, ¼ cup of the Parmesan, herbs, garlic, salt and black pepper until smooth. Spoon the mixture evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan.
- Bake 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling. Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- You can assemble the blanched cauliflower in a baking dish with the cheese sauce and refrigerate up to one day before baking.
- The creamy sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.
- Make sure to use freshly grated Parmesan cheese, not the kind that comes in a can.