Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Gratin with Pecorino Sardo PDO
Made with 100 percent sheep’s milk, Pecorino Sardo PDO makes a rich addition to a warm winter gratin. Spring for the longer-aged maturo version to boost complexity; melted into cauliflower and crisped alongside breadcrumbs, the cheese—which has been perfected over the centuries on the Italian island of Sardinia—adds a savory dimension to this veritable comfort food dish.
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 ½ pounds), broken into bite-sized florets
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo PDO Maturo, divided
- ⅓ cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- ► Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 2-quart baking dish (can be rectangular, square, or oval).
- ► Fill large pot with water and bring to boil. Salt generously and add cauliflower florets, cooking until florets have slightly lost their crisp but are still firm, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- ► Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- ► Add flour, stir to incorporate it into leeks, and cook for a minute or two. Slowly stir in milk, breaking up clumps as you go. Bring to a slight simmer over low heat and cook until sauce has thickened, stirring frequently to keep bottom from burning.
- ►Once sauce is thick enough to coat back of a spoon, stir in nutmeg, black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup grated Pecorino Sardo. Once cheese has melted, add cauliflower and mix until fully coated.
- ►Transfer cheesy cauliflower mixture to baking dish and spread evenly. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs with remaining Pecorino Sardo. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- ►Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the gratin and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown and crisp and sides are bubbling. Allow to slightly cool before serving.
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