Parmesan pesto cauliflower rice is a quick, healthy side dish flavored with Parmesan cheese and pesto sauce. Its light and fluffy texture make this lower-carb dish a treat!
A cauliflower rice recipe here has been a long time coming. Better late than never, right? A few readers asked about preparing turmeric coconut basmati rice with cauliflower, and it made me realize that cauliflower hasn’t made an appearance on the blog, well, ever. Time to change that.
When I cook with cauliflower, I’ll usually throw it in slow cooker curries or make super simple cauliflower rice. Like really simple – cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and pepper. No recipe required. But when a friend graciously gifted me the cauliflower from her CSA box, I wanted to come up with a proper, flavorful cauliflower rice recipe that would be gobbled up by my cruciferous veggie-tepid fiancé without comment (“Oh, is this cauliflower?” 😐 ).
This Parmesan Pesto Cauliflower Rice totally did the trick. Cauliflower florets are broken up into tiny pieces quickly with a few pulses of the food processor, then are sauteed for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil on the stove. While you can leave the cauliflower rice raw I strongly recommend sautéing it. Those few extra minutes (and extra pan to wash) are well worth it because it makes this cauliflower rice have a much milder cauliflower flavor.
A milder cauliflower flavor means more room for the other goodies in this parmesan pesto cauliflower rice to shine. A small batch of pesto sauce whips up in the time it takes for the cauliflower to sauté, and gets stirred into the cauliflower rice once it’s done.
One of the great things about cauliflower rice – besides it being low-calorie, low-carb, and nutrient-heavy – is that it stays fluffy after it cooks. Of course it’s not actually rice, but the texture isn’t wildly different. Stirring the sauce into the cauliflower rice adds just the right amount of flavor without making it oily or soggy.
Then there’s the last bit of the title – parmesan pesto cauliflower rice. This one’s easy. While there’s some parmesan included within the pesto sauce itself, stirring in an additional amount (or as much as your heart desires) before serving makes this dish all the more satisfying. Don’t skip it!
Parmesan Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- 1 head of cauliflower (see note)
- 5 tbsp olive oil, divided (1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp pine nuts*
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the cauliflower head into four sections and then cut away the middle stem to separate the florets from the stem. Place the florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is in very small pieces. Remove cauliflower from food processor and wipe clean for the pesto later on.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add broken up cauliflower and stir. Cover and cook 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower has softened slightly. Remove from heat once done.
- Add basil leaves, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and 2 tbsp Parmesan to food processor and pulse until the pesto is broken up and cohesive, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Once cauliflower has been removed from the heat, stir in lemon juice, pesto sauce, remaining 6 tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese), and salt and pepper to taste.