Baked cauliflower with cheese and breadcrumbs has all the makings of an awesome Italian side dish. Pecorino Romano, Sicilian oregano, garlic, white wine, and lemon juice top cauliflower florets which are baked until brown and tender. Perfect to serve alongside roasted chicken or with a full Sunday dinner.
Cauliflower is one of the most underrated veggies ever. Each time I use it I find myself wondering why I don't do more with it.
The smell of the garlicky Pecorino-flavored breadcrumbs and cauliflower baking in the oven just take me back to being a kid and eagerly waiting for my grandma to serve us dinner on Sundays.
My hope is that when you make this dish or any other, you create your own memories to cherish!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Preheat the oven to 400f and set the rack to the middle level. Break the cauliflower head into florets. Most of the stem (just cut off the bottom ½-inch and peel to remove the fibrous tough skin) can be used and cut into bite-size pieces as well.
- Grate or finely mince 4 cloves of garlic and combine with a ½ cup of olive oil.
- In a large bowl combine a ½ cup of plain breadcrumbs, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano, 1 teaspoon dried Sicilian oregano, ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup dry white wine, and a ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Drizzle half of the garlic oil into the bottom of a large baking dish.
- Place the cauliflower florets into the dish and sprinkle and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Next, sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs all over the top.
- Drizzle the remaining garlic oil on top of the cauliflower and breadcrumbs. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove foil and continue to bake for 15 more minutes so that the breadcrumbs turn brown. For extra color, broil for the last 1-2 minutes but watch very carefully to avoid burning. Before serving, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of your best extra virgin olive oil all over the top. Enjoy!
Top tips for perfect baked cauliflower with cheese and breadcrumbs
Cauliflower with breadcrumbs is pretty simple and straightforward, but here are a few tips to ensure a perfect batch every time.
- Select the best. When selecting your cauliflower at the grocery store, choose a cauliflower whose head is firm and florets are tightly closed. If using white cauliflower, it should be pale with no spots. While white is the most common and the type I used for this dish, feel free to use green or purple cauliflower if you can find it. Be sure to avoid any cauliflower that's soft.
- Waste not, want not. Cauliflower is wonderful in that there is very little waste. You can pretty much use the entire cauliflower including the stem at the bottom. To use, simply cut off and discard the bottom ½ inch of stem. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the outer fibrous skin and cut up the stem into small pieces, and bake along with the florets.
- That garlic oil though. Sure, you can skip the garlic oil and simply use olive oil if you're in a rush, but the garlic oil is what helps make this a stand-out side dish. Simply grate the garlic and mix with oil. That garlic oil is the same secret ingredient we use in our grandma pizza.
- Broil for color. We tend to eat with our eyes first, and for that reason along with the improved taste and texture, I recommend broiling the baked cauliflower at the end. Broiling will give the cauliflower and breadcrumbs a beautiful golden brown color. Just watch carefully to ensure they don't burn. 1-2 minutes usually does the trick.
More meal-worthy Italian vegetable sides
- Baked artichoke hearts - Made with seasoned breadcrumbs and white wine.
- Roasted broccolini - With toasted pine nuts and seasoned breadcrumbs, these are a family favorite.
- Italian potato casserole - Layers of potatoes, onions, and tomatoes with oregano and breadcrumbs.
- Green beans with tomato sauce - I ate this very often growing up!
- Sauteed broccoli rabe - With olive oil and tons of garlic.
- Calabrian-style peppers and potatoes - A spicy side dish with Yukon Potatoes, Long Hots, basil, and oregano.
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- 1 large head of cauliflower broken into florets
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for finishing
For the seasoned breadcrumbs (mix together)
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 1 teaspoon dried Sicilian oregano or Italian oregano
- ¼ cup parsley minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup dry white wine pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, etc
- Preheat the oven to 400f and set the rack to the middle level. Mix the seasoned breadcrumbs ingredients together and set aside.
- Combine the grated garlic and olive oil together in a bowl. Spoon half of the garlic oil into a large baking dish and spread it around to evenly distribute.
- Place the cauliflower florets into the baking dish and season with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Next, sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs on top of the cauliflower, then drizzle the remaining garlic oil and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes longer or until the cauliflower is tender and the breadcrumb topping has browned.
- For more color, the cauliflower can be broiled for the last 1-2 minutes but watch very carefully to avoid burning. Drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil on top of the cauliflower and serve. Enjoy!
- Almost all of the cauliflower can be used. Just cut off the bottom ½-inch of stem and peel to remove the fibrous tough skin. The stem can then be cut into small pieces and baked along with the florets.
- If desired, broil right at the end for extra browning but watch carefully because the breadcrumbs can burn quickly.
- A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil all over the finished dish is great. You can also opt for drizzling onto individual plates.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven at 325f until warm or in the microwave.