Roasted Cauliflower topped with a fresh and vibrant nut-free Parsley Pesto. A great healthy side dish to serve alongside steak, roasted chicken, or any main course.
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If you’ve been following along with my blog, you’ll know that I *LOVE* cauliflower. My Pan Fried Cauliflower recipe is on constant repeat at home and is my most popular recipe on this blog. Like, ever.
I also try to get creative with Cauliflower and come up with different ways to use it: as a healthy low-carb substitute for grits in this Cajun Shrimp and Cheesy Cauliflower Grits recipe, in this Cauliflower and Chorizo Casserole, in Cauliflower Fritters, and in these delicious, snackable, addicting Cauliflower Tots.
But this time I wanted to share this basic roasted cauliflower recipe. Even though the instructions might be basic and easy, there ain’t nothing basic about the delicious flavor of roasted cauliflower. Like most vegetables, cauliflower develops a delicious rich flavor when roasted. And when paired with my zesty and flavorful parsley pesto, this makes for an amazing side dish.
We ate this roasted cauliflower right off the baking pan because it was so good. Just grab a piece of cauliflower, dip it into the green pesto sauce, and pop it in your mouth. If we were more civilized, we probably would have waited until the rest of our dinner was ready and served it alongside our chicken breast and brown rice. But we can’t all be perfect, can we?
How to make Parsley Pesto:
Parsley pesto is made the same way as you would make basil pesto. You take lots of fresh parsley and pulse it in a food processor with some minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some pine nuts, but I decided to keep this recipe nut-free (that’s my fancy way of saying I didn’t have any pine nuts on hand!). But the truth it is you don’t need to add pine nuts to parsley pesto, you won’t even notice that they’re not there. This is because parsley is a bit coarser and sharper in flavor than basil, so you don’t need the extra texture and flavor of pine nuts to make a super delicious parsley pesto.
This parsley pesto will keep in the fridge for up to a week, just keep it in a sealed container and give it a stir before serving. To serve leftover parsley pesto, I would recommend taking it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before using it, so it comes to room temperature. You definitely don’t want to heat this sauce up since you don’t want to cook the parsley, but to me it doesn’t taste as good when it’s ice-cold.
Parsley pesto is very similar to chimichurri sauce, which makes it a great sauce for things like steak, grilled chicken, and seafood. It is a great sauce for other roasted vegetables, such as roasted turnips or even roasted potatoes. I highly recommend serving this roasted cauliflower with parsley pesto alongside some nice grilled steak or chicken so you can put this sauce to work double-time!
Tips to make the best parsley pesto:
- Remove the large stems from the parsley and roughly chop the parsley leaves before putting it into the food processor. It will help make a smoother pesto sauce.
- Use fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice. It takes only an extra minute to use fresh ingredients (use a garlic press and a lemon squeezer to help you out), but the flavor is just so much fresher than if using bottled ingredients.
- Don’t skip the lemon zest! A microplane zester (such as this one) makes it easy and fun to zest lemons and limes, and the flavor aroma from fresh lemon zest is absolutely the best. Your kitchen will smell like you just cleaned the whole thing!
- Pro tip: Zest the lemon first, then juice it. It is so much harder to zest a slipper juiced lemon peel! Ask me how I know.
- You can add a bit of red pepper flakes if you want to add a bit of spice to the sauce.
- You can add roasted pine nuts or roasted crushed almonds if you want a bit more texture and nutty flavor, but I find that it is not necessary.
A few tips to make the best roasted cauliflower:
- Wash your cauliflower in advance to give it time to dry completely. Or use a salad spinner (such as this one) to dry the cauliflower florets. The less water remains on the cauliflower, the crispier it will become while roasting. If your cauliflower is too wet, it will steam instead of roasting.
- If you want, you can sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the cauliflower for extra flavor.
- You can flip the cauliflower halfway through roasting if you want to, but I find this to be an unnecessary extra step. If you leave the cauliflower in one place during cooking time, it will develop those nice golden brown roasting colors.
- I find prefer cauliflower to still be a bit crispy, so I roast it for only 15 minutes. Some people prefer it softer, in which case you might want to let it roast for 20-25 minutes. Test it with a fork (carefully) to see if it is cooked enough for your taste.
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Roasting cauliflower brings out it's wonderful flavor and gives it a gorgeous golden brown color. Serve this healthy side dish with generous drizzles of the zesty Parsley Pesto. Skip the Parmesan cheese for a vegan/vegetarian option.
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 garlic clove
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt , to taste (about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon to start)
- Optional: extra water or olive oil (see notes)
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a large baking sheet. Place the cauliflower florets on the baking sheet. Spray with olive oil. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Roast at 375F for 15-20 minutes, until desired done-ness. Remove from oven.
Prepare the parsley pesto while the cauliflower is roasting: Remove the large stems from the parsley and discard. Roughly chop the parsley leaves - you should have about 1 rounded cup. Finely mince/grate the garlic clove. Zest and juice the lemon. Grate the Parmesan cheese (or use grated cheese).
In a small food processor, add the pesto ingredients (chopped parsley through olive oil). Pulse a few seconds at a time. Season with salt. If the pesto is too thick, add a tablespoon of olive oil or water at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Read the post for a few tips on making the best roasted cauliflower and parsley pesto.