Super healthy and low in calories, this Cauliflower ‘Rice’ with Pesto is a vibrant side dish bursting with basil, spinach, garlic, lemon and Parmesan flavors.
Cauliflower on its own is very bland. Adding a fresh bold pesto turns it into a flavorful and pretty side dish that goes perfectly with fish or any protein for that matter. If you like pesto, you will like this dish. I use a processor to rice the cauliflower, but you can also grate it with a large box grater.
Tailor To Your Taste
- I used a spinach-basil pesto, but any kind of pesto you like will work. Variations of this pesto can be found on many sites including NYT Cooking, AllRecipes and Epicurious. Feel free to add pine nuts or walnuts if you like (optional in the recipe below).
- You can use leftover rice instead of cauliflower.
Shortcut for Cauliflower ‘Rice’ with Pesto
- Buy a fresh prepared pesto at your local market or store instead of making it from scratch (although it’s pretty easy!)
- Buy the riced cauliflower. Many stores like Trader Joe’s, Walmart and others sell fresh ‘riced’ cauliflower now. It’s sold frozen too but I find it gets mushier when cooked.
- With these two shortcuts together, Cauliflower ‘rice’ with pesto takes less than 10 minutes to make.
- The pesto can be made a day or two ahead. In fact, you can ‘rice’ the cauliflower ahead of time as well and store it in a sealed bag or container for a few days or even in the freezer (I just learned) for up to 6 months. If you make both parts ahead, the whole dish will only take about 10 minutes to pull together.
Cauliflower 'Rice' with Pesto Recipe
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
- 3/4 cup basil leaves
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest (or more)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
- PREPARE AND 'RICE' CAULIFLOWER: Rinse cauliflower and shake off excess water. Cut into quarters and then into florets. Remove all stems. Place half of florets into a food processor and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice. Empty into a skillet. You may still have a couple of florets that didn't chop. Just add them to the next batch. Pulse next batch until all cauliflower is rice-size. Add to skillet. You will have about 4 cups 'rice'.
- MAKE PESTO: In the same processor bowl, add spinach, basil, Parmesan cheese, nuts (if using), garlic, salt, pepper, lemon zest and a bit of the oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Process until blended. While processor is still on, slowly add remaining oil through feeder tube until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- COOK CAULIFLOWER RICE: Heat 1 tablespoon oil and cauliflower in skillet to medium. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. This will depend on the size and depth of the pan. Cauliflower should be tender (not mushy) and still have a slight bite to it.
- ADD PESTO AND SERVE: Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto until you're happy with the taste (reserve any leftovers for pesto crostinis). Stir until well combined and heated through - one to two minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with or pass extra Parmesan, chopped nuts and/or shredded basil leaves.
Here’s another cauliflower ‘rice’ side dish you might like: