Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake | Pushing the Wave

Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Recipe, 1 February 2023
by L.A. Davenport
Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake, by L.A. Davenport
Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake, by L.A. Davenport
This recipe was born, as many of mine are, out of necessity.

I wanted to make a hearty meal for the family on a brisk winter's evening, so I pulled open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Spotting half a cauliflower head, half a fennel head, and a box of fresh mushrooms, I knew what I wanted to do immediately. Seeking a bit of assistance with the overall approach, I consulted the enduringly fantastic How to Eat, by Nigella Lawson, and it all fell into place.

And so my Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake was born, and it went down a treat with my family.


For the vegetables:
  • Generous knob of unsalted butter
  • Quarter a large head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • Quarter of a fennel bulb, finely diced
  • Large handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Good vegetable stock
  • Tsp of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

For the cheese sauce:
  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbp of plain, ideally 00, flour
  • 1/2 tsp of English mustard powder
  • 200 ml of milk
  • 75 g of grated Emmental cheese
  • 1 tbp of breadcrumbs
  • Macaroni
Serves 4

Now, before we get started, Nigella specifies cheddar cheese in her macaroni cheese recipe. I used grated Emmental and it worked very well, I suspect better than cheddar would in this recipe, as the taste of Emmental doesn't overpower the other ingredients.


Preheat the oven with the grill on. Butter a deep casserole or gratin dish.

In a hot, heavy based pan, melt the butter and stir in the nutmeg, leaving to fry together for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and fry on a medium heat until the juices appear. Add the diced fennel and continue frying until it becomes soft. Stir in the cauliflower, then add good quality vegetable stock until the cauliflower is half submerged. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is soft and well cooked. Adjust the seasoning and then put everything to one side, including the juices.

Now we are now basically following Nigella.

Mix a good handful of grated cheese with the breadcrumbs. Meanwhile cook the pasta, draining when finished. Return the first pan to the heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and mustard powder, constantly stirring until it smooth. Take the pan from the heat and pour in the milk while still stirring, until it is evenly mixed. Return to the heat and continue stirring. Once it has formed a nice saucy consistency, remove again from the heat and stir in the remaining grated cheese. Now add in the pasta and mix thoroughly, then stir in the set-aside vegetables and their juices.

Turn into the buttered dish and sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and breadcrumbs over the top. Brown under the grill. Serve with a leafy salad.

© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Cauliflower, Fennel and Mushroom Pasta Bake | Pushing the Wave