Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower


Even sautéed cauliflower feels decadant in this cheesy-crunchy baked pasta from Ina Garten. Be careful not to overcook your pasta, as it will continue to cook in the oven. Slideshow: More Cauliflower Recipes 

Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
6 to 8


  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • ¾ pound shells (medium such as Barilla)

  • Good olive oil

  • 2 ½ pounds cauliflower (1 large head cut into small florets)

  • 3 tablespoons sage leaves (roughly chopped fresh)

  • 2 tablespoons capers (drained)

  • 1 tablespoon garlic (3 cloves minced)

  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (grated)

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 cups Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese (10 oz. with rind freshly grated, lightly packed)

  • 1 cup Ricotta (8 ounces)

  • ½ cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)

  • 6 tablespoons Italian Pecorino cheese (freshly grated)

  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves (minced fresh)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°

  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.

  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.

  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.

    Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower
    © Christina Holmes

Make Ahead

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

Suggested Pairing

Light-bodied Pinot Noir: 2014 Angeline Reserve.

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