There’s something so comforting about creamy gratins. Who wouldn’t go for that bubbly, cheesy, warming goodness?
Cauliflower Gratin is not exclusively Italian, of course—the Brits have their Cauliflower Cheese and the French their chou-fleur au gratin— but I think it is particularly nice made with Italian cheeses like Parmesan and fontina. It makes for a rich side dish with simply roasted meats or, especially if you add the optional ham and extra cheese, can serve as a (mostly) vegetarian main course, just as satisfying as any meat dish would be.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish, 2 as a main course
- 1 head of cauliflower, separated into flowerets
- 500 ml (2 cups) thick béchamel sauce
- 75-100g (3-4 oz) grated Parmesan cheese, plus some more for topping
- Butter, q.b.
- 100 g (4 oz) fontina, Emmenthal, raclette or other meltable cheese, cut into small cubes
- 100g (4 oz) of cooked ham or prosciutto, cut into small cubes
Steam the cauliflower flowerets until they are just tender, with still some ‘bite’ left in them.
While the cauliflower is steaming, make the béchamel and, when it’s done, mix in the grated Parmesan cheese.
Butter a baking dish large enough to hold all the flowerets very generously. Arrange the cauliflower in the dish, nestling the cubed fontina and/or cooked ham among the flowerets if using. Pour over the béchamel, taking care to cover everything. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and dot with butter.
Bake in a moderate oven (180C/350F) for a good 20-30 minutes, until the dish is bubbling and the top is nicely browned.
Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For the extra cheese in your cauliflower gratin, fontina would be a lovely choice, but if you can’t find imported fontina (it’s rather hard to find, for some reason) then another meltable Alpine cheese like Emmenthal, Appenzeller, raclette or perhaps a Comté, would be very fine choices indeed.