Active Time
1 HR
Total Time
1 HR 30 MIN
Serves : 6 to 8
© Christina Holmes

How to Make It

Step 1    

Preheat the oven to 400°

Step 2    

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.

Step 3    

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta. Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender and add to the bowl.

Step 4    

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully. Stir in the Fontina. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2–inch rectangular baking dish. Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. Combine the panko, Pecorino, parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.

Make Ahead

Assemble the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Light-bodied Pinot Noir: 2014 Angeline Reserve.

You May Like

Aggregate Rating value: 4

Review Count: 9

Worst Rating: 0

Best Rating: 5

Author Name: Jan Todd

Review Body: In making this I tweaked the recipe by adding a white wine and cream sauce. I also added broccoli to the dish.  I served it at a family reunion and everyone enjoyed immensely.

Review Rating: 5

Date Published: 2016-11-26

Author Name: Freshview

Review Body: This was really good.  If not for the sage I'd have given it 5 stars. I found the sage very overpowering and I'm not sure complimentary to the other flavours next time if either leave it out completely or use dried sage so it would be more evenly dispersed. I used Gouda instead of fontina because my local store didn't have fontina. 

Review Rating: 4

Date Published: 2016-11-03

Author Name: Sandy McAlear

Review Body: Good recipe but found it too salty, if I make it again I would add no salt to the recipe.

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2017-01-31

Author Name: Benita Mehta

Review Body: This was amazing! I was surprised there was no roux involved like in most baked mac and cheese but I trust Ina. Loved the fresh lemon flavor that shined through and the creamy ricotta (I used part-skim) bites throughout. I highly recommend. I didn't use sage since I didn't have any but did add other herbs instead. I also omitted the capers although I would have liked to use them. I just didn't want to make another trip to the store. The perfect amount of cheese without feeling over the top. I love that the recipe does not use butter or cream.

Review Rating: 5

Date Published: 2016-11-17

Author Name: rparker069

Review Body: Faboulous! such a tasty idea. Baked shells  and cauliflower is surprisingly good. Just had them awhile back along with carrot sticks and my ranch dip, it was soo good..

Review Rating: 5

Date Published: 2016-11-06

Author Name: Pattie Litton

Review Body: I agree with Hattie and others. Our dish turned out very dry and we spooned sour cream over the top for emergency moisture. I think we had the wrong kind of ricotta--we bought the expensive variety, which never melted. A béchamel sauce sounds right. But we found the spicy mixture of seasonings quite pleasing.

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2017-03-07

Author Name: magill

Review Body: I have made this a number of times now. I agree that the ricotta in a layer doesn't add much so I mix it into the mixture which adds a little moisture to the dish while it cooks. I have subbed sour cream when without ricotta, which worked and cream cheese, which didn't. Any type of pasta works as well as another to me. And I have been using aleppo pepper instead of chili flakes as it has a little less heat so you can add a bit more to spread the flavour. Also have subbed mozzarella for fontina in a pinch and I don't think people even noticed. Like some others, I found the fresh sage really bitter and now use the dried. I also now keep capers (which I upped to spread the flavour) in the house (and fontina). The only thing I do miss when making this to use up my cauliflower at the last minute is the lemon zest and I have upped that quite a bit as well. I will also note that I have baked this in several shaped dishes and find that a deeper round casserole dish doesn't dry out as much as a larger shallow dish - but then it might not go as far for larger groups.

Review Rating: 4

Date Published: 2017-07-18

Author Name: mdomnitz

Review Body: i really liked this.  the flavors are bright and i love the crustiness of the dish.  the panko is great and there's not too much cheese.  The only thing I might do differently next time is mix the ricotta in as opposed to dollop it on top of the first layer.  i love ina's recipes!!

Review Rating: 4

Date Published: 2016-11-06

Author Name: Katevh

Review Body: Loved it! I also added a bit of white wine to the bottom of the dish before baking. I liked it very much as a main dish, the textures and flavor combinations, but I actually think this would be a fabulous side dish to a tenderloin roast or a rib roast. Definitely a great hearty winter dish that I will keep in my book!

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2017-02-08

Author Name: Sahni Mir

Review Body: Just wondering if I could substitute Gorgonzola for the fontina cheese for a sharper flavour? Looks so good!

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2017-07-24

Author Name: waccababe

Review Body: Absolutely LOVED this dish. Loved the combination of sage, capers, lemon zest and crushed pepper to bring a delicious spark to this decadent creamy dish. The cauliflower was nutty and delicious after searing, and the Fontina added another layer of flavor- lots of layers of flavor here- makes a ton and can be made ahead of time. A real keeper!

Review Rating: 5

Date Published: 2016-11-09

Author Name: Gustavo Woltmann

Review Body: Great article, really helpful and really tasty

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2017-01-29

Author Name: ITAO

Review Body: This didn't turn out well! Before it got baked and the ricotta was added I thought it was great and was going to take it to Thanksgiving dinner. The ricotta added nothing, it was just blobs of bland cheese that didn't even get hot enough when baked. It all tasted bitter after it was cooked. Not sure if it was the sage, the cauliflower, or the uncooked garlic that made it all taste so bitter. On top of that the fontina dried out and the pasta on the top got hard. I think there should have been a béchamel for the cheese, the garlic should have been cooked in the butter for the roux and only a small amount of dried sage should have been added to the béchamel (if at all). The browned cauliflower seemed bitter also after being baked so I would try just throwing it in the microwave if I try making this again. This dish was a lot of work and it was so disappointing when it ended up tasting bad! It doesn't seem that anyone tests recipes anymore before they post them on the internet.

Review Rating: 3

Date Published: 2016-11-19

Author Name: Nakia

Review Body: Made this with some modifications: (1) I roasted the cauliflower to free up my pan and hands for other things; (2) cooked some crumbled Italian turkey sausage with onion. Added the sage to mellow it a bit after other commenters noted it was bitter/strong; (3) folded the ricotta in as opposed to dollops for more even spread; (4) didn't have panko on hand but had regular breadcrumbs. Combined as directed except subbed butter for olive oil.  YUMMY!

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2016-12-01

Author Name: Annie Murphy

Review Body: I followed the recipe to the tee - and served as a side dish at Thanksgiving.  It was perfect.  The cauliflower lightened it up vs if it were ALL pastas.  The number of cheeses gave me pause as I am not a fan of a heavy rich mac and cheese.  The lemon zest and ricotta was bright and light.  It was so good I have been requested to bring this to Christmas dinner.   The leftovers were great as well.  It was like a white lasagna.  Decadent lunch with a glass of chardonnay.  Loved this.

Review Rating:

Date Published: 2016-12-24

Author Name: Arneis

Review Body: This dish was insanely popular at a Thanksgiving potluck I attended. I used the entire box of shells and added a wee bit more cheese. I used Costco's Pecorino which is quite delicious and well-priced. Can't wait to make this again. 

Review Rating: 5

Date Published: 2016-12-02