Pasta Gratin with a Cauliflower Chickpea Sauce

Pasta Gratin with Cauliflower Chickpea Sauce

I think I am in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love. Or at least as much in love as one can be with a pasta.

I had been wanting to make a cauliflower sauce for my pasta — isn’t it all the rage? — but I’ll admit that as much as I love cauliflower, I am not a fan of the boiled-cauliflower smell. No matter how much everyone in the food blog world is raving about it, and no matter how much healthier it is than other vegan cheese-sauce substitutes like cashew, I couldn’t stomach the idea of a sauce that reeked from here to cruciferous eternity.

Pasta Gratin with Cauliflower Chickpea SauceThen I had a brilliant idea: I would bake the sauce in a gratin and the baking would pretty much take care of the smell. I was on a roll. I needed some protein in my recipe, so I would throw some chickpeas into the mix.  And some chewy, earthy, meaty cremini mushrooms to complement the silky-smooth sauce.

In went a bunch of ingredients to make the sauce as cheesy as possible without actually using cheese or any cheese substitute, and trust me, this is a cheesy vegan sauce if you ever had one. And the gratin is creamy inside and crunchy on top and rich without being heavy or fatty, and full of flavor. You might catch yourself daydreaming about it. I did.

I used a wonderful, gluten-free brown rice pasta for this gratin, but use regular pasta if you’d rather– it won’t make any difference.  This recipe makes a ton of food– enough to serve a crowd– so you will need a big baking dish for it, or do as I did and throw it into a large cast-iron skillet. It makes for very pretty presentation too.

Pasta Gratin with Cauliflower Chickpea Sauce

Pasta Gratin with a Cauliflower Chickpea Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 10
  • 1 16-oz package of pasta (I used penne, but any small pasta would work here, including macaroni or bow ties)
  • 4 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp white miso (optional)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp dry sage, crumbled
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • ½ tsp turmeric (optional, but adds a nice color)
  • 3 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil and more for spraying
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Parsley for garnishing
  1. Bring a large, salted pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower florets and let them cook about 7 to 10 minutes or until they are fork-tender.
  2. Remove the florets to a blender.
  3. Cook the pasta in the same water until al dente.
  4. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil and add the onions, turmeric and garlic. Add some salt and saute, until the onions become translucent. Add to the blender along with the chickpeas, almond milk, miso, nutritional yeast, pepper, and salt to taste. Add 1 cup of water.
  5. Blend until you have a very smooth sauce, adding more water if necessary. This is best done in the large jar of a Vitamix or you might want to do it in two batches because this makes quite a lot of sauce. You are going to need it all.
  6. In the same pan you sauteed the onions and garlic, add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and saute the mushrooms and sage with some salt and pepper until the mushrooms become soft, about three to four minutes. Add the pasta and the sauce and mix everything well.
  7. Spray a 15 X 10 inch baking dish or a 12-inch cast iron skillet with some oil, coating evenly.
  8. Pour the pasta into the dish or skillet and spread evenly.
  9. Spray the top with some oil.
  10. Bake the gratin in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Finish off under the broiler for five more minutes until the top is nicely browned.
  11. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 379 Fiber: 11.4 grams Protein: 14.6 grams

Pasta Gratin with Cauliflower Chickpea Sauce

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  1. says

    This looks wonderful! Cauliflower is getting more expensive at my local grocer so I’ll probably hold off until it goes on sale…and when it does, I’m going to try your recipe!

    • says

      Thanks, Mary! Cauliflower tends to get a little pricey here too at times. I hope you will try it when you can. Have a great weekend! :)

  2. Gina says

    What gorgeous sauce. I am dreaming about it and haven’t even made it yet, just from the sound of it. Can’t wait to make it this weekend. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Gina, it is certainly a dreamy sauce. :) I think I will be making this one over and over again. I hope you will try it and love it as much as we did! :)

  3. Sheela says

    Hey Vaishali,

    After super hit of “Pasta Avocado” thanks to you…
    I tried the above mentioned, some missing ingredients as I did not have it in my pantry(sage, miso) Substituted Italian seasoning(just a pinch) and it turned out yummy :)

    Looks appetizing, easy to make and yummy too.. What more can I say? Quantity doubles, guess will be taking it for lunchbox tomorrow.

    A big hug!


  4. says

    Very interesting and healthy pasta Vaishali…looks so good…can you please mention where did you get the pasta..I have been looking for brown rice pasta in stores like Trader Joes etc. but couldn’t find them anywhere.

  5. Sheela says

    Tried and loved it like the other recent Pasta Avacado recipe.
    Did not have sage so substituted with Italian seasoning(just a pinch), tasted delecious!
    A recipe that is easy to make, looks good and tastes good, what else can I say?
    Thanks Vaishali for sharing such wonderful recipes…

    FYI: Was unable to submit the comment from MAC:( Anyone else experienceing the same?
    Taking a break at work…so thought let me try from this sourceand it works fine:)

    Bye for now!

    • says

      Hi Sheela, I did get your earlier comment– if you scroll up you should see it. I sometimes don’t get around to approving the comments for a bit, if I’m busy. Thanks so much for letting me know– so happy you enjoyed the pasta. One of my new favorites too. Smart of you to substitute the Italian seasoning. I have a bottle I got from Costco and it is amazing on just about everything. :)

  6. says

    looks yummy! will def try it out. Can you suggest a substitute for mushrooms? I dont eat mushrooms and would love to know what you think would work instead.

    • says

      Hi there, Roasted bell peppers would be amazing here, and so would roasted zucchini, or you could even stir in some leafy greens like chopped spinach or baby kale. Hope that helps! :)

  7. Elisha says

    Yummy yummy yummy!! Late autumn here in Australia so it’s a great time for a cheesy bake. :)

    Can you recommend a substitute for the sage? My cupboard is full of dried spices but that’s one I don’t have. And I also assume you can sub soy milk for the almond?

    • says

      Hi Elisha, hope I made it in time for your dinner. You can use any other “savory” herb, like thyme or oregano or marjoram or even rosemary which would be great here. And yes, you can absolutely sub soy milk for almond. Happy cooking!

  8. Deepthi says

    Aaammaazzzzzingggggg Vaishu(If you dont mind me calling you 😉 )
    I made it last night…But I tweeted it a bit.. 😉 I added few veggies and chilli sauce to make it little hot… Gratin was jus so yummm
    Am telling you…I made 4-5 recipes from ur site so far…and never dissappointed yaa…
    Please keep posting :)
    Thanks and Love, Deepthi.

    • says

      Hi Deepthi, so glad you made the gratin and liked it, and thanks for your kind words! :) And of course I don’t mind you calling me Vaishu– that’s what my mom’s family always calls me, and it reminds me of good times and good people. :)

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