Bumper Crop: Cauliflower Risotto

Melissa Roberts

Cauliflower is a tough sell at my house. My husband is a reluctant vegetable eater at the best of times, and I’ve tried to get my boys to try it under clever marketing names like “brain vegetable.” But alas, little success. As a risotto pusher, however, I’ve been victorious. If its on a menu, hubby will always order it, and if I cook it for dinner (which admittedly isn’t often), it will vanish. So I thought, Why not combine the two and see what happens? 

Lovely, almost petite heads of cauliflower abound in the greenmarket now, so buying it is an easy temptation. Once home, I separated the cauliflower into florets and roasted them--and if you don’t know my stance on roasting, I strongly advocate it for bringing out the best in vegetables. The cauliflower caramelizes in a hot oven, with yummy, toasty browned edges. Folded into a creamy risotto, it’s one of the best vehicles imaginable for cauliflower, and over at my house, one way it will always get eaten. 

Cauliflower Risotto

Serves 4 to 6

1 smallish head cauliflower (about 2 lbs)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons thyme leaves, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups Arborio rice (9 oz)

½ cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425F with rack in upper third. 

Cut cauliflower into 1-inch pieces and toss with 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread in 1 layer in a large 4 sided sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and well browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

Heat broth and water together in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a bare simmer.

While cauliflower roasts, cook onion in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 4 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in thyme, then add rice and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until almost completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes more. 

Stir ½ cup simmering broth into rice and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next until rice is creamy looking but still al dente (it should be the consistency of thick soup), about 20 minutes total. There may be leftover broth.

Stir in cheese, butter, and salt and pepper to taste, then fold in cauliflower. Thin with some remaining broth if desired.