One of the first Italian dishes I ever made was risotto, and it’s safe to safe I’m pretty obsessed with it. For one, it’s carbs. For two, it’s starchy – it gets super creamy and rich all on its own by simply adding chicken or veggie stock to it slowly. For three, it’s a blank slate. You can add anything you want to it: protein, veggies, cheeses, nuts. You can make risotto sweet or savory to suit your cravings at the time. Think of risotto like your food mood ring.
So I’ll be honest, when I first thought up this recipe for cauliflower risotto, I was hesitant. I almost didn’t want to try it. For one, it’s not real carbs. For two, it’s not starchy – how was cauliflower ever going to get creamy?? For three, yeah I could add anything to the cauliflower risotto but it had to be something that complimented cauliflower to begin with. I was skeptical and secretly hoping it would fail.
Then I tried the cauliflower risotto, and not only did it not fail, it was GREAT. So great that I went back for seconds. 🙂 Now I won’t lie, it doesn’t taste like risotto because, well, it’s not rice-based. It tastes like cauliflower but feels elevated. It’s a great, healthy alternative to a traditionally unhealthy dish. This cauliflower risotto could super easily be made vegan by taking out the cheese and subbing the butter for olive oil.
for the sauce:
6 cups cauliflower florets
4 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
for the risotto:
1 medium head cauliflower
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
1 bag spinach, 12-14 ounces
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 cups sauce, depending on how creamy you want it
Start by making the creamy sauce that will coat your cauliflower rice. Bring the water and vegetable broth to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork tender and breaks apart when pressed. Melt the butter (or olive oil) in a sauce pan and add the garlic cloves. Sauté over medium heat for 2 minutes until the garlic is one stage before browning. You don’t want it to brown or else it gets bitter. Place the garlic in a blender with the excess butter or oil. Add the florets and 2 cups broth/water mixture. Blend until smooth (remember, when blending hot things, remove the middle cap of your blender’s lid to let the steam escape but cover the top with a towel so it doesn’t splash everywhere).
For the risotto, start by ricing the cauliflower. You can either rice it by hand using a box grater or you can rice it using a food processor. I prefer the texture you get from ricing it by hand but it’s much more time consuming then using a food processor, so it’s totally your call. If you use a food processor, work in 2 cup batches of florets at a time. Anything more will give you really inconsistent rice pieces (some will be huge and others pulverized). Once all the cauliflower is riced, set aside.
In a large skillet or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and add the diced onion. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the diced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Then, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the riced cauliflower and the salt. Cook for 15 minutes. The salt will help pull out the moisture from the cauliflower. Add the spinach and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn the heat off and let sit for 10 minutes. Once the majority of the moisture has been removed, drain as much out of the skillet as you can. Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat. Add the sauce and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes to heat through. Add the parmesan and mozzarella cheese if you’re using it and stir until it’s evenly combined and melts. Serve immediately. Top with extra cheese if you’d like. Enjoy!