Not yo momma’s cauliflower and sausage casserole

You know when you have the best of intentions to do something–like, you’re all gung-ho to get it DONE, you start it and then the motivation just deserts you?

Yeah.That just happened.

Why? you might well ask. Possibly because I had this WHOLE post typed and then my page switched and I lost everything. But wait, you say, a draft should automatically be saved. All you have to do is reload it.

I know, friends, I thought so too. Alas, I was duped. Hence my lack of motivation and retyping of the post. Boo, technology. Boooo.

Anyway, today I made this casserole for a friend. As a bribe an incentive to help me with Free Comic Book Day. It went awesome, and I couldn’t have been happier. All my friends are rock stars. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the people in my life and their willingness to get silly with me for nothing more than a smile, a hug, and something to eat. *end gush*

So, while I made cookies, or some other kinds of sweets for my other friends, I decided to mix it up and go with something savory. Yes. I deviated, not only from my usual posts on here, but also from my usual baked-goods fare. I am a rebel.

I wanted something healthy, hearty, and warm. It’s a bit rainy today, and I figured some comfort food would not go amiss. Enter the casserole. I don’t have very good casserole memories growing up. We didn’t eat many in our house. Probably for the best. When I would go to friend’s houses in elementary school, if we had a casserole, it’s be something like tuna noodle. Cream of something-that-will-kill-me, with tinned tuna, peas, and noodles, topped with potato sticks. A kid’s dream, right? Apparently I wasn’t the right kind of kid. Ick.

So, I got thinking about what I wanted my casserole to include:

  • Veggies
  • Meat
  • Tons of flavor
  • Spice
  • Warmth
  • Veggies

You get the idea. and went to the internet for inspiration. I found the recipe today from The Kitchn. It was a casserole contest winner. Healthy, full of flavor and veggies, with just a bit of badness (which isn’t even that bad, since I used chicken sausage). I suggest adding some kale or spinach when you add the cauliflower. I also added about 2 teaspoons each of crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the sauce because thyme alone was not cutting it for me. But, experiment with what flavors work best for you!

I hope you enjoy it!

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Cauliflower and Sausage Casserole

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower, about 2 pounds
1/2 pound uncooked herbed chicken sausage OR spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 medium onion, about 1/2 pound, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stems fresh thyme, leaves only
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The Molly additions
2 teaspoons each crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil
1 cup fresh or frozen kale

Method

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the cauliflower head in quarters. Slice away the leaves and stem, and with an angled cut cut away the core from each quarter of the cauliflower head. Chop cauliflower roughly into bite-sized florets, each about 1-inch across.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes. Drain into a colander set in the sink. Run cold water over the florets to stop the cooking process and shake the colander to drain any excess water. Return the cauliflower to the cooking pot and set aside.

Place a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then, when the pan is quite hot, add the sausage. Use a spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through and beginning to get crispy. If using chicken sausage there should not be a great deal of fat in the pan, but if using Italian sausage, drain all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, and thyme to the pan with the sausage. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Scrape up any brown bits as you sauté. Crush the tomatoes, and add them to the sausage. Stir thoroughly, then add the reserved tomato sauce and cook for about 5 more minutes. (At this point, if you are using the Molly Additions- add the crushed red pepper, oregano, and basil). Turn off the heat and taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the sauce with the cauliflower (and kale) in the cooking pot. Spread the  mix in the prepared baking dish and distribute evenly. Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle them evenly over the cauliflower. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until breadcrumbs have browned and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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