Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin

I love sides more than the main dishes - almost always. So when I spotted this one in Alison Roman’s new cookbook Nothing Fancy, I knew it had to make it on my list of sides on the blog. A warm gratin coming out of the oven and on the the table is always and I mean always a welcome sight and smell. This cauliflower one is no exception. Think of all the flavours in a mac and cheese and instead swap the pasta for the cauliflower and there’s no need for a bechamel sauce either. It’s simple to make, creamy, nutty cause cauliflower always gets nutty tasting and delicious when roasted - and is just the perfect vegetarian side.

Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin

I really enjoyed reading through Alison’s new book - she had a natural charm to her and I can relate to her control freak tendencies and it’s nice to read a book and recipe that’s been created by someone who shares that in a personality. Over the years I have learned to let go but by nature being in dental has shaped a bit of my personality - attention to detail, perfectionism, clean freak, (I’m still a bit messy though but I like things clean) and a control freak. It’s been a balance to maintain that at work but let go in my personal life cause let’s face it - that type is not so fun to be around outside of work. Anyways that took a bit of left turn but it’s related to the book I promise. Alison has created a book full of fantastic recipes to feed those you love and have over with meals that are very fuss free so that having people over can be less about the stress of it all and more about letting go and having fun - even if dinner is late or something else goes wrong because let’s face it we cannot control everything no matter how prepared we think we are.

Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin

The key to that Alison says is always have lots of snacks available and seltzer because who doesn’t love seltzer. Her snacks are pretty fabulous from dips to seafood snacks like her spicy marinated anchovies with potato chips, and cheesy snacks like her spicy tomato-marinated feta (Of course that one caught my attention), marinated artichoke hearts and so many more. The flavours she puts together are delicious. I am in love with her salad section as she prefers her salads like I do - In her words: “salads must be hyper acid and pleasingly salty. I’m talking to the point where each bite is as addictive as a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.” I would take it as far as Miss Vickies Sea Salt & Malt vinegar - but I’m a bit extreme. The variety in this section of the book is also wonderful as is the rest of the sides. She has a delish main dish section with a lot of approachable and no fuss meat options from seafood to poultry, pork and beef. And her desserts section is also wonderful - simple enough to be made the same day, but easily made the day before as well.

Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin

The photography is lovely in the book and I would expect nothing less. The photographers are a Toronto based Uber, and I mean UBER, talented team made up of Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott. Impeccable styling and photos using that very signature Bon Appetit harsh light that I loath when not done right - which with these two is never! I tried to mimic that lighting style. We are still trying and experimenting with it and just love the process but it’s not quite the same.. but I still like the light in our shot. Anyways, the book is a keeper and I have so many recipes I want to try especially the mains - the mains are amazing! Alison Roman’s book does not disappoint and neither does this cauliflower gratin!! Time to dig into it now!

Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin


Serves 6 to 10


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons or ½ stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2½-3 pound cauliflower, leafy green parts removed
  • Half small yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • 6 oz gruyere or white cheddar cheese; grated about 2 ½ cups
  • crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 cups fresh course breadcrumbs or Panko (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds (optional)
  • ¼ cup olive oil if using breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F

  2. Bring the cream, butter, and garlic to a simmer in a small pot over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat .

  3. Next slice the cauliflower into ½ inch thick slabs (some of the bits will fall away and crumble into tiny florettes; this is fine)

  4. Place the smallest bits of cauliflower on the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate or cake pan. Scatter with some of the onion followed by some of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower, onion, and cheese until all of it is used, ending with cheese.

  5. Pour the cream mixture over followed by a good sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes, if using.

  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the cauliflower is tender and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

  7. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is bubbly and golden and the cream is mostly reduced, another 15 to 20 minutes. It will look slightly runny and creamy in the oven but will set in thicken once you take it out of the oven and let it cool a few minutes.

  8. If using the breadcrumbs: combine them with the sesame seeds and the olive oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper Scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake until those are deeply and thoroughly crispy and golden brown 8 to 10 minutes.

  9. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving

DO AHEAD - Gratin can be baked two days ahead, then kept covered and refrigerated. To reheat, place in a 400°F oven, uncovered until return to its bubbling Golden State 10 to 15 minutes

Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin