Cauliflower Asparagus Manicotti Pasta Recipe
I’ve been feeling kind of miserable since getting home from our trip to Paris. Not only have I caught a nasty cough, but I'm still heavily jet-lagged. What’s worse, I haven't visited the gym in almost a month and I have a mountain of tasks I need to complete very soon before I become totally overwhelmed. As you may have guessed, my cure for most problems is cooking, and today, I made one of my favorite comfort foods, something creamy, cheesy and filled with vegetables: an asparagus and cauliflower manicotti pasta.
To reduce the amount of cheese, calories and guilt in the béchamel sauce, I blended cauliflower into the white sauce. Once softened, the cauliflower became very creamy and gave extra body to the dish.
Yields: 6 servings1 (8-ounce) package manicotti pasta, cooked al dente and set aside
½ head cauliflower
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh asparagus, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
¾ cup all-purpose flour
4½ cups milk, warm
⅓ cup Monterey Jack cheese, finely chopped
For the cauliflower:
Cut the cauliflower from the bottom into wedges. Pull and separate the small florets.
Cook the cauliflower for 10 minutes in boiling water then transfer into an ice bath. Drain thoroughly, then pat dry on a paper towel. It should be tender. Coarsely chop and set aside.
For the asparagus:
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes until lightly golden. Add the garlic, thyme, red chili flakes and parsley. Mix well. Add the asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add half the amount of cauliflower and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
Once the asparagus mixture is cool, place the pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the asparagus mixture, with as little liquid as possible, as well as the Parmesan cheese (reserve the excess asparagus liquid in a separate bowl). Pulse one more time. Season with salt and black pepper.
For the béchamel sauce:
In a saucepan, melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat; you don't want the butter to burn. Bring the heat back up to medium-high (the butter should be hot and golden) and add the flour. Keep stirring manually with a whisk for approximately 3 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter instantly and form a paste. Add the spinach liquid; stir well until incorporated and add the milk in 3 stages. Increase the heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then transfer to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons Monterey Jack cheese, the reserved cauliflower and reserved asparagus liquid. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
In a large casserole dish lined with parchment paper and sprayed with oil (for easy clean up), spread a layer of béchamel sauce first.
Stuff the manicotti shells with the asparagus and cauliflower mixture and place the stuffed shells into the dish. Ladle more béchamel sauce over the manicotti shells. It should cover the whole tray. Cover with the rest of the Monterey Jack cheese.
Bake in the oven for 5 minutes at 375°F, lower the temperature to 350°F and cook for another 20 minutes. Broil for about 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden top (if necessary). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
If you're a pasta lover, check out my other pasta dishes.Published By: on October 9, 2013.