roasted cauliflower risotto (or farrotto)

We are truly in any age of information overload. For  those of us interested in trying new things in the kitchen, we are surrounded by a veritable tidal wave of cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking websites, and newspaper food sections. The electronic resources are the easiest to access to cull ideas for combining target ingredients in a new way at the precise moment when we are in the mood. For free!

This recipe we came across only last week, but our aging memories cannot trace back where. It seemed so straightforward, even bob could remember how to reproduce it at home at the first possible opportunity. It could have been a cookbook or cooking magazine at Borders. In fact it must have been there because we could not track it down at home or on the web. Whatever. 

We love cauliflower and rice—the Middle Eastern pilaf version with cinnamon is a terrific comfort food on our favorites list that we enjoy on a regular basis. And the idea of roasting veggies to bring out their flavors is one that we have often read about, but hardly ever implement. However, this recipe seemed pretty convincing so we went for it within the week. It was still summer so we ate out on our paver stone patio lubricating our meal with some crisp outlaw Princeton vino bianco from Italy.

Since we recently bought this fancy convection oven stove, we speeded up the roasting process using the convection feature. Meanwhile, we started the risotto prep to save time as well, using sliced leek instead of the original request for chopped onion to kick it up a notch. The cauliflower browned nicely in about 40 minutes, but was still a bit crunchy, so we cut the larger florets down to size and dumped everything into the liquid phase of the risotto cooking to tenderize it a bit. The onions were more seriously browned but emphasized the roasting characteristics of the mix. The whole deal did not take as long as we had feared. The key question, was it all worth it?

Yes, it was. And we'll do this again. And again. Don't take our word for it. Try it for yourselves.


1.5 c arborio rice
1 onion, sliced crosswise thinly
3-4 cloves garlic
1 cauliflower, cleaned and separated into florets
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil spray
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 - 1 large leek, sliced crosswise finely
1 porcini mushroom cube
1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano
freshly grated black pepper to taste
2 T butter
2 T chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Use a convection oven to shorten the roasting time.
  2. Clean the onion and cauliflower. Slice the onion thinly crosswise, and separate the cauliflower florets. Press the garlic into a small bowl with some oil.
  3. Place the onion slices evenly spaced on the bottom of a nonstick baking pan sprayed with extra virgin olive oil and then place the florets on top of them. Brush roughly with the garlic olive oil and the salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Roast about 40 minutes. Watch that you don't overdo it.
  5. Meanwhile, clean and slice the leek or at least half the leek.
  6. Eventually start the risotto process. Have some 4-5 cups of water boiling in a teapot. Dissolve a porcini mushroom cube in a cup of water when it boils.
  7. Sauté the chopped leek in olive oil and butter and after softened, stir in the rice and let cook a couple minutes, then dump in a half cup good quality white wine that you intend to drink with the meal. Stir around a bit.
  8. Begin the liquid phase by pouring in the cup of mushroom broth. Continue adding liquid, but also stir in the roasted veggies and enough boiling water to cover them almost.
  9. When the rice is done (al dente test), remove from the heat and stir in the finishers.
  10. Serve with an extra sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano and black pepper.


  1. How to completely redo this recipe for quick delivery: cauliflower farrotto.
    2010.  By now we've been demoted from DINKS to SINKS by the implosion of the local pharmaceutical industry so we are slumming with our wine choices by visiting the PA State Store system instead of our reliable Princeton Corkscrew supplier. Sorry, Laurent. (DINK = Double Income No Kids, SINK = Single Income No Kids.) We had a little bit of cheap red wine left in the fridge, and a cauliflower, and a fresh red pepper. But bob waits too long while working on his PC while ani is at an early evening exercise class, so 40 minutes of roasting is a no go for the current recipe. And instead of white arborio rice, farro is a good upgrade nutritionwise. So 1 c of pearled farro goes into the bottom of the pressure cooker with a few inches of hot water, then the cleaned cauliflower florets in the steaming basket on top, and it is covered, locked up and brought to steam and cooked 6 minutes at full steam. Meanwhile, one onion is cleaned, chopped and sautéed in some olive oil, then joined by 3 celery stalks chopped finely, and 1/3 red pepper, chopped finely with some salt and pepper and a hit of garlic powder, but after cooking a while, the 1/3 c of leftover red wine is tossed in and the mixture is left to simmer covered on the back burner on low heat for a bit and then the burner is turned off. bob releases the steam on the pressure cooker on the stovetop (quick release feature), which immediately condenses all over the stovetop. Oops. Ani will make bob pay for this. As it turns out, 6 minutes was way too long for the cauliflower, which we wanted to brown in olive oil in a nonstick chef's pan next. So it was a bit mushy, who cares? A porcini cube is cut into the farro and it is again brought to steam and cooked another 7 minutes. Meanwhile we get a little brown color on the overcooked cauliflower whose pieces get smaller and smaller. When the farro is done, we drain it and combine with the cauliflower and the veggie mixture in the chef's pan, and then the spice adjuster adjusts the spices with hits of salt, pepper and paprika. Start to finish in 45 minutes. We dish out and grate parmigiano over each serving. Tasted pretty good, or was that the salt talking...?
  2. 2011. cauliflower farrotto revisited.
    We decided to give this another try based on ingredients on hand. Looking through our farro supply in various versions, we pass over a 2007 dated sealed plastic package for a half-used undated cloth bag of whole grain farro with a little recipe attached for farrotto. Exactly 1 cup left, just what we need. We figure on boiling it with 2 cups water for 30 minutes according to the instructions, then we'll combine it with the addins. Ani already prepared a head of cauliflower, we just broke up the florets into a bit smaller pieces, and planned on steaming them first, then sautéing in vegetable oil to brown them up a bit. Without anything particular in mind she had also sautéed up some sweet red and orange peppers and shitake mushrooms the evening before so that would be a late stage toss-in. For the binder, we chopped half a large onion and food processed about 3 stalks of celery, and softened them in some olive oil in a nonstick pot (our risotto pot), while steaming the cauliflower and boiling the farro. Putting aside the softened onion-celery mix, we pan browned the cauliflower trying to also soften them up a bit more than our steaming phase had done. When the farro time limit was up, we combined everything together and waited for the spice queen to make her contribution. No salt she says, making up for bob's omission generously, and then some freshly ground pepper and a half cup of parmigiano. With extra parmigiano and black pepper on each serving, of which we both had seconds of course. Another tasty successful experiment.
    P.S. The bonus recipe from Azienda Agricola Giacomo Santoleri, Casino di Caprafico, Guaridagrele/CH:
    Farro (triticum dicoccum) Whole Emmer Wheat.
    Saute onion in 4 tbl extra virgin olive oil. when onion becomes translucent add carrots and celery and sauté until vegetables begin to soften. Add farro grains, 60 g per serving size. Stir into the mixture and being adding broth, two cups per one cup of farro, diced potatos and cooked borlotti beans or chickpea. Continue to stir throughout cooking for thirty minutes. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil to finish the disch. This recipe follows closely that procedure for cooking risotto. Ingredients may be added according to your liking.
    Imported by Penta International Inc, Millburn, NJ 07041.
    Looks like it was a stateside purchase. But someone forgot to proofread the recipe.
  3. Illustrations available.
cauliflwrsto.htm: 28-sep-2011 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]