Recipe: Make Chef Zachary Baker’s ‘Gratinato di Cavolfiore’ at Home This Thanksgiving

The chef from Ca’Lucchenzo (slated to open in the former Juniper 61 space by the end of this year) shares his recipe for a delicious cauliflower-based Thanksgiving side dish.

Béchamel Sauce
  • 4 T Butter, unsalted
  • 2 oz Flour, all-purpose (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cup Milk, whole
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 pinch White or Black Pepper, ground
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg, ground

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Once melted, add the flour and continue cooking, stirring regularly until the flour is beginning to lightly toast, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.  While whisking, slowly pour in about 1 cup of the milk and continue whisking until the butter/flour mixture is completely combined.  Then add the remaining milk and cook over medium heat, whisking regularly until the mixture begins to boil.  Lower heat slightly and continue to simmer for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened.  Remove from heat, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, cover and set aside.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove Garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Breadcrumbs, coarse – preferably home made
  • 1 tsp Parsley, flat leaf finely chopped

Over medium heat, lightly fry the crushed garlic clove in the olive oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the breadcrumbs and stir well until all the olive oil is absorbed evenly into the breadcrumbs.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring every 2 minutes until the crumbs are lightly toasted.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then add the chopped parsley.  

Roasted Cauliflower
  • 2 Cauliflower Heads, medium size, about 2 lbs each
  • 1 stick Butter, unsalted
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper, ground

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees, using convection fan if available.  Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower head, then quarter and core the head.  Slice each quarter crosswise into ½” thick slices and place into large mixing bowl. Repeat with the other cauliflower head.  Cook the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until browned and foaming ceases. Add the olive oil, then pour the butter/oil mixture over the cauliflower and mix to coat. Season with the salt and pepper. Divide the cauliflower pieces between two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and then place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower pieces are lightly browned.  When cauliflower is done roasting, allow to cool on the baking pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a butter-greased 9”x13” baking dish.  

To Assemble

  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (divided into ½ cup and ¼ cup quantities)

Evenly sprinkle ½ cup of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano over the cauliflower pieces in the baking dish. Then, pour all of the béchamel sauce over the cauliflower. Give the dish a couple shakes to help the sauce fill in between the cauliflower pieces. At this point, it would be best to refrigerate overnight, but if not possible, try to let the dish rest for an hour before baking. 

Bake in a 425 degree oven until the edges begin to bubble, about 20 minutes. Remove and evenly sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano and all of the toasted breadcrumbs over the dish.  Return the dish to the oven for another 10 minutes, baking until evenly browned and bubbling all over. Allow to stand at room temperature about 15-20 minutes before serving.




Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.