Cauliflower Baked Ziti Recipe

Cauliflower baked "ziti" is a clever spin on the traditional (and tasty) pasta dish. Since the cauliflower replaces the ziti, the recipe is ideal if you are trying to limit refined carbohydrates or simply eat more vegetables. It's also perfect for gluten-free diets — or if you ran out of pasta. You can even make it vegetarian by omitting the ground meat or using your favorite meatless sauasage crumbles. Thanks to the gooey mozzarella and fragrant basil, you won't even miss the pasta in this cauliflower baked ziti recipe.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Things You'll Need

  • 1 medium cauliflower head, chopped into florets

  • 1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef

  • 2 cups marinara or pasta sauce

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic)

  • 1 1/2 cup ricotta

  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced

  • 16-ounce mozzarella log

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat the cauliflower florets with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. In a large bowl, toss the florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 2

Place the cauliflower florets on the baking sheet in an even layer.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 3

Roast for 20 to 23 minutes or until fork tender and slightly golden brown.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Tip

Since every oven is different, it's important to closely watch the cauliflower. Take extra care to avoid overcooking it, which can make it mushy.

Step 4

While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the meat. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Cook the meat and onion until the meat is no longer pink and the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat and drain once cooked. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 5

Reduce the oven temperature to 350° Fahrenheit. In a bowl, combine the ricottta and eggs. Add the dried parsley and mix until blended together.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 6

Slice half the mozzarella log into cubes.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 7

Cut the remaining mozzarella into thin slices.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 8

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the roasted cauliflower, cooked ground meat, ricotta-egg mixture, sauce and 2 tablespoons basil.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Tip

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the bowl. This will help further drain any grease.

Step 9

Mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 10

In a large casserole dish, add half the cauliflower mixture. Add the mozzarella cubes in an even layer.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 11

Spread the remaining cauliflower mixture on top. Add the mozzarella slices and Parmesan cheese.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)

Step 12

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Garnish with the remaining basil and serve.

(Image: Kirsten Nunez)