Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Greens

 

This creamy cauliflower pasta bake with mushrooms and greens is a comforting and budget friendly meal for winter! 

 
 

This month Recipe Redux falls on a weekend, so lucky you, you get a bonus post this week!

This month we were challenged to make a budget meal for less than $3 a serving. Right up my alley, since I tend to be pretty frugal in the kitchen. I definitely still remember living on my own on a starting dietitians salary (aka not a lot) and that first year after starting my business, when we were essentially living off my husband's salary.

Admittedly, I do love to splurge on artisan foods and load up at the farmer's market with tons of organic and local foodstuffs, but, I try not to talk about that too often on my blog. As I mentioned in my Monday post, it really annoys me when I see bloggers or health gurus espousing the health benefits of exotic "superfoods," especially when they talk about them as if they have some kind of magical healing power. I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of quality over quantity, but when people talk about their local organic diets with a holier than thou attitude, it makes good nutrition seem out of reach to the average person who can't afford a $10 bottle of green juice or a $20 bag of gogi berries.

 
 

The most important aspect of feeding our bodies well is eating a diet based on minimally processed foods, with more plants and less animals. And that costs less money, not more!

When I'm trying to save money at the grocery store, I plan meals that use grains as a filler, add in lots of veggies (usually what's on sale) and a little bit of protein. That usually turns out to mean lots of pasta! Whole grain pasta is super budget friendly, and easy to refrigerate and reheat leftovers for later.

For my budget friendly meal, I wanted to make a creamy, comforting pasta casserole, but cut back on the dairy to save money. So, I used my creamy cauliflower sauce as a base, then added sauteed white mushrooms (always inexpensive) and local organic collards, which were on sale after the new year. Feel free to use any greens you like depending on what's inexpensive or on sale - spinach, kale, and chard would all be tasty. You could even swap in frozen. Just be sure to squeeze out the liquid so it doesn't water your sauce down.

 
 

For the cheesy, comforting flavor, I used nutritional yeast, a vegan powder that's packed with nutrients and gives sauces a rich, cheesy flavor. It's really inexpensive, especially if you buy it in bulk at a health food store, and it lasts practically forever stored in a mason jar. I also used a little bit of sharp cheddar cheese baked over the top. I always go for quality with cheese because the flavor makes such a huge difference. I'm definitely a cheese snob! The cheese I used in this dish is actually one of my favorite cheddars, a grassfed sharp cheddar sold at Trader Joe's really inexpensively.

Just to prove I made it under $3 a serving, here's the breakdown. Some of the ingredients I already had on hand, so I did my best to estimate!

  • 1/2 bag of whole grain pasta......................$0.75
  • 12 ounce bag cauliflower florets...............$2.29
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil................................$0.25
  • 1/2 onion.........................................................$0.35
  • 5 garlic cloves................................................$0.10
  • Almond milk...................................................$0.25
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast..............................$0.55
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice.............................$0.10
  • Pinch nutmeg.................................................Free!
  • 8 ounces mushrooms.................................$2.29
  • 1/2 bunch of greens.....................................$1.00
  • 2 cups grated cheddar...............................$2.00

So that brings us to a grand total of $9.93, or $2.48 per serving! And I used the leftover greens and cheddar in omelettes for breakfast :)


Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Greens

Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole grain pasta, cooked
  • 1 12-ounce bag cauliflower florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or regular milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 bunch of greens (kale, collards, chard, etc), trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. When al dente, drain. Place cooked pasta back in the pot and set aside.
  3. Fill a medium pot with a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil and place a steamer basket in the pot. Place cauliflower in the steamer basket, cover the pot, and steam cauliflower for about 7--9 minutes until fork tender.
  4. While cauliflower is steaming, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender and golden, about 7 minutes.
  5. Scrape sauteed vegetables into a food processor. Add steamed cauliflower, almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and nutmeg. Blend until creamy, about 2 minutes, then season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Add shredded greens to the steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  7. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet on medium-high. Add mushrooms, season with salt and black pepper and saute until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
  8. Scrape the cauliflower sauce into the pot with the pasta. Stir in steamed greens and mushrooms. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with cheese and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Check our more budget friendly meals by fellow Recipe Reduxer's by clicking the link below! 

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