Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower

bowl of shells with cauliflower
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
6 servings

All of the cauliflower au gratin goodness in a baked pasta dish.

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Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
lb(s) medium shells
Good olive oil
2 ½
lb(s) cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)
Tbsp roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
Tbsp capers, drained
Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
tsp grated lemon zest
tsp crushed red pepper flakes
cups grated Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta cheese, lightly packed (10 ounces with rind)
cup (8 ounces) fresh ricotta
cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
Tbsp freshly grated Italian Pecorino cheese
Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves


Step 1

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Step 2

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 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) saute pan over medium-high heat, add half the cauliflower in one layer, and saute 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 oil to the saute 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.

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