Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping

8 Jan

Romanesco Rigatoni & Cheese Bake

Romanesco is a fabulously freaky looking thing that tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. If broccoli florets look like little oak trees then romanesco florets are definitely mini Christmas trees.


This is basically a fusion of two iconic dishes. Macaroni Cheese (Mac & Cheese) and Cauliflower Cheese, which is cauliflower coated in a cheesy white sauce if you didn’t already know. Sometimes gratinated sometimes not. I think it’s a British thing. It’s good to get some extra vegetables in with all that cheeesy carbness so I added some spinach too. Good for the guilt I find.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

This dish is great for using up all the little bits of different cheeses that you might have leftover especially at this time of year. I used some feta, goat’s cheese and grated Manchego. Clear out the fridge food is always satisfying.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

The topping is actually the Hazelnut & Chestnut Dukkah that I made to go on my Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup. The spicy Egyptian nutty crumble give this an extra kick of flavour but you could use breadcrumbs mixed with grated cheese and some spices if you like. The nuts give a nice crunch though. Worth the extra effort definitely.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Dukkah Topping

Serves 3-4, vegetarian

You can substitute the cheeses for whatever bits you have around; Stilton, Gruyère, gorgonzola, mozzarella….

  • 1/2 large romanesco (or cauliflower/broccoli), chopped into small florets
  • 300 g wholemeal rigatoni
  • 2 Tbsp flour (I used wholemeal spelt)
  • 2 Tbsp dairy free spread or butter
  • about 300 ml oat milk (or other milk)
  • a good handful of grated manchego (or cheddar/parmesan..)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • a big handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped (about 100 g)
  • 75 – 100 g Greek feta
  • 75 – 100 g goats cheese
  • about 50 g hazelnut dukkah (recipe here) or use breadcrumbs and grated cheese
  • olive oil and breadcrumbs/flour

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet in a large pan with lots of boiling salted water. About 4 or 5 minutes before it is cooked throw in the florets too. Cauliflower takes longer to cook than broccoli and romanesco so adjust accordingly. When the pasta is cooked and romanesco tender, drain the whole lot in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter/spread in a small pan over a medium heat. When it has melted add the flour, all in one go, and stir for a minute or so. It will form a thick paste, you need to cook the rawness out of the flour.

Add in the milk, stirring continuously, until incorporated, then continue stirring until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes depending. When thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, rosemary, nutmeg, chilli flakes and season well with salt & black pepper. Set aside.

Pour the drained pasta and florets back into the large pan over a gentle heat and pour over the cheese sauce, stirring to combine.  Add in the chopped spinach, stirring to wilt in the warm pasta then crumble (or grate) in the rest of the cheeses (I saved some feta for the top). Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Preheat oven to 200C.

Prepare one large or 3-4 individual ovenproof gratin dishes by rubbing the insides with oil and then dusting with flour or breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture into the dish(es), top with the reserved feta, a generous sprinkling of the dukkah (or grated cheese & breadcrumbs), drizzle with olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

You can serve this on its own or with a bitter leaf salad to cut through the richness of the cheese. A mix of raddichio and rocket is nice with some olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.



15 Responses to “Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping”

  1. frugalfeeding January 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    I am now home and here I am, as I said I would be… this looks great – isn’t romanesco just so intricately pretty?!

    • Natalie Ward January 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      I think it looks like a forest of mini fir trees, there’s something outer spacey about it too! 😉

  2. moveeatcreate January 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    This looks absolutely amazing and combines so many of my favorite ingredients. I can’t wait to try dukkah. It’s the second time I’ve seen a recipe for it this week and hadn’t ever heard of it before!

  3. The Travelling Chopsticks January 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    I know i have said this many times before – but I just love your cooking. Truly an inspiration to be better – plus love the new look on the blog 🙂

  4. Eha January 9, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    What an interesting way to ‘clean out’ one’s fridge, however using a vegetable I don’t know, but think have seen in the dim distant past Hmm, hope my greengrocer can supply some answers tomorrow, ’cause sure would like to try 🙂 !

  5. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide January 9, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    What a hearty looking pasta. I love the look of that veggie too.

  6. Three Well Beings January 10, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I had Romanesco for the first time last year when it appeared in my weekly produce box. I don’t often see it in the stores, but I’ll perhaps get more from the farmer’s market. I love manchego cheese, too…this sounds great!

  7. addictedconfessor January 11, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Hi 🙂 So glad to have stumbled across your blog, looking forward to viewing your future posts!
    In the meantime id love it if you checked out my veggie (hopefully turning vegan) blog, I include lazy but healthy vegan recipes 🙂


  8. peasepudding January 13, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Great winter dish and your Dukkah adds the perfect texture contrast and flavours

  9. Lora January 21, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    What a fabulous packed with flavor dish. I love the nut topping.


  1. Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower « Putney Farm - January 8, 2013

    […] Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping ( […]

  2. Spiced Roasted Cauliflower « Stephy K. - January 8, 2013

    […] Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping( […]

  3. Spinach Mac and Cheese - Trial VegetarianTrial Vegetarian - January 9, 2013

    […] Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping […]

  4. Florentine Baked Pasta – The Chosen « jittery cook - January 16, 2013

    […] Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping ( […]

  5. Weekly Newsletter 02-05-13 | theveggiebin - February 5, 2013

    […] Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

Pease Pudding

Just another weblog

Chica Andaluza

Sometimes Up a Mountain in Andalucia and sometimes Down by the Sea on the English South Coast

Agrigirl's Blog

Placemaking for Healthier Communities and a Healthier Planet

Kitchen Operas

Gluten-Free Deliciousness

for the love of yum

A girl who loves to cook fresh, fun, and global cuisine.

The Path To Authenticity

Mind, Body & Spiritual Growth

%d bloggers like this: