Pasta and creamy sauce were my favorite foods growing up. To my dismay, I had to realize that Konrad (my husband) doesn’t care much for pasta or any kind of creaminess. I can’t explain the first – like seriously, who doesn’t like pasta?
But the latter might actually be out of some sort of ‘self-preservational’ instinct. In the first few years of our marriage we came to the realization that he has some sort of dairy-sensitivity, if not actual lactose intolerance. Which is so odd, considering he grew up on a farm milking cows (pretty much every day) and making cheese. And his mom keeps saying how out of all the kids, he loved milk the most.
It might have to do with the kind of processing our milk undergoes here, that they didn’t do on the farm in South America. But until we figure out more, Konrad avoids creamy things like ice-cream (*gasp*) and even too much cheese (*double gasp*). Which that pizza lover has difficulty with at times 😉
So when I set out to make these baked tortellini (which are a twist on a childhood favorite) I had Konrad in mind or at least his dairy-sensitivity. I wanted to use my creamy cauliflower sauce, but although it is based on a vegetable, the original recipe still calls for a little butter and milk.
This time, I tried using coconut oil and almond milk to replace the dairy ingredients in the sauce. And… it turned out decent. Of course, in my mind nothing really trumps butter. But if you can’t have dairy, these substitutes will work just fine.
I didn’t omit the cheese on top. What is baked pasta without ooey gooey bubbly cheese on top? And for dairy-avoiders, there are dairy-free shredded cheese alternatives out there (like Daiya). I used meat-filled tortellini but a cheese filling would be really awesome in this dish as well.
With this casserole you actually get a double serving of vegetables. First in the cauliflower sauce and then there are tender broccoli florets in between all the tortellini goodness. Still it is a rich and somewhat heavy meal, so I definitely recommend a yummy salad on the side to lighten things up.
The amount of sauce you need will depend a little on the size of your cauliflower head. As rule of thumb, you want all the tortellini to be just covered in sauce. With a big head that might mean some leftover sauce, with a small cauliflower there might not be quite enough. In that case, just add a little of the broth the cauliflower (and broccoli) were cooked in.
You also want to toss the tortellini in the sauce a little. Just to make sure every single one is coated in delicious creamy sauce. I didn’t do this in my first attempt, and didn’t like how some of the tortellini in the center were stuck together without any saucy goodness in between.
This casserole can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge (or even freezer for longer). Come dinner time just pop it in the oven while making said salad ;). Finally sprinkle some parsley for garnish and enjoy!
Store leftovers in the fridge. If the sauce gets to ‘dry’, add a little water when reheating.
For more cauliflower recipes, check out 4 Surprising Ways to cook with Cauliflower
- Prepare the cauliflower sauce according to directions in this recipe. Depending on your head of cauliflower you should end up with 3-4 cups of sauce.
- Reserve the broth the cauliflower has been cooked in. Blanch the broccoli florets in the boiling broth for 1 minute until they turn bright green. Then, using a slotted spoon, take out right away.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a 8x8 inch baking dish.
- Pour about half of the cauliflower sauce (~ 1.5 cups) into the baking dish. Arrange tortellini and blanched broccoli florets in the dish and fill up with enough sauce to cover the tortellini. Lightly toss or stir everything to ensure every tortellini is coated in sauce. (If you think you don't have enough sauce, you can also add a little of the remaining hot broth - maybe ¼ cup).
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over top and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes. The cheese should be melted and bubbly. You can also turn on the broil function for a few minutes to brown the cheese.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away.
- Store leftovers in the fridge. If the sauce drys out too much, add a little water when reheating.