Garlic-Cauliflower Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout Leaves & Lemon Zest

Sometimes I forget that there are people who don’t love cauliflower quite as much as I do. Even though I’m acknowledging that fact now, I still kind of can’t believe it. I mean, seriously, it’s SO GOOD. Slightly funky, slightly spicy, with an awesome crunchy-crumbly texture. Magical things happen when you pair it with garlic (especially when that pairing occurs in a 450° oven). And then there’s cauliflower purée, which I will eat an entire monster bowl of if left alone with said bowl and a spoon. And I’ll be totally fine with that decision, because it’s CAULIFLOWER.

See, this is what I’m talking about. I love it. Other people don’t. Or they’re indifferent. So when I proudly announced to J, “I have this great idea for a new pasta to try……cauliflower gnocchi!” and he stared at me kind of blankly, I was confused. (Also, maybe a little bit insulted. Insulted for my beloved cauliflower. [And perhaps also because my idea was awesome, and that should have been obvious.]) But I quickly followed with, “……and I think I’ll pan-fry it with some brussels sprout leaves and add some lemon zest.” To which he replied, “oh, yeah, that does sound good.” YES IT DOES. And it is. So good.

I set out to make this dish with plans to whip up some garlic-cauliflower mash, then let it drain and cool before turning it into pasta dough. Right after I’d finished the mash and set it up to drain in the fridge, my friend D stopped by. After talking to him for a few minutes and then wandering back into the kitchen, it occurred to me that my apartment smelled a little……funktastic. (Which I suppose is an unavoidable side effect of cooking up an entire head of cauliflower with a ton of garlic.) So I asked D, “do you think it smells kind of funny in here?” To which he replied, “umm, it smells a little like Chinese food.” Which made me think of the one time my cat escaped from my last apartment, then showed up two days later. I hugged him and then declared, “he smells like Chinese takeout!” My boyfriend at the time picked him up, smelled him, and said, “uh, yeah, he smells like garbage.”

So, I took that to mean that my house smells like garbage. WHATEVER. I was still confident in the end result. (And my new goal was to feed the finished dish to D, to show him that it didn’t taste like garbage.) Once the cauliflower had cooled, I made up the dough, and set up a pot of water to boil. But then I heard D gathering up his things in the other room, which was following by him yelling, “I have to go! I completely forgot I was supposed to meet someone!” Damnit. He would leave my stinky house, with memories of garbage smell only. Oh well. The water was boiling and the dough was ready, so this pasta was happening.

And seriously, you guys, this stuff is so good. Granted, I am partial to cauliflower, but I will still confidently declare that I think it’s better than potato gnocchi. The pan-frying helps, for sure, as do the greens and the lemon zest (along with a healthy dose of pepper). All in all, it’s pretty awesome. I fed the same thing to J later that evening, and he agreed. I am so happy I have a freezer full of this stuff.

Garlic-Cauliflower Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout Leaves & Lemon Zest

(yield: 8–9 dozen)

Note: You can halve this recipe if you wish, but I really think it’s worth it to make a giant batch and freeze the leftovers. You won’t be sorry.

First, the garlic-cauliflower mash:

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 bulbs of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • a few pinches of salt

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat.

Mash cauliflower mixture until it is the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Place cauliflower mash in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, then rest the sieve over top of a pot and place in the fridge. Let cauliflower sit until the mixture has cooled and a decent amount of water has drained out (don’t be afraid to give it a squeeze every now and then).

To make the dough:

  • 2 cups of garlic-cauliflower mash (recipe above)
  • 2/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour

Combine cauliflower mash, parmesan, egg yolks, and salt in a bowl and mix together. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough begins to come together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead briefly, until dough is smooth and soft.

Cut dough into four pieces. Take one and cover the remaining three with a damp tea towel. Roll dough out into a rope approximately 1 inch thick, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Shape pieces on a gnocchi board or fork, then set aside and repeat with remaining dough.

To make the dish:

(I highly recommend brussels sprout leaves for this. But if you aren’t a fan, kale or spinach work be a great substitute.)

  • brussels sprouts leaves (I used around 4 brussels sprouts per serving)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • lemon zest
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste (lots of freshly ground black pepper adds a really nice kick)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they begin to float, then drain and set aside. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add gnocchi and let cook for a few minutes. Once they begin to show signs of light browning, add the brussels sprout leaves and stir until leaves are wilted and the gnocchi are nicely browned on each side. Top with lemon zest and some parmesan cheese.

Also, I just want to say thank you to everyone for your positive thoughts and well wishes for my mom and her surgery tomorrow. (It can be kind of difficult for me to talk about tough, personal things like this, so it often feels like it comes out as TRANSMITTING INFORMATION. END TRANSMISSION.) But your support means a ton, and I am so very grateful. I’m hoping to have some good updates by the weekend. (And maybe also a naan post, because I made that for the first time. And it was good!)


  1. says

    My 12 year old sister has taken a keen interest in vegetables lately. One night she ate broccoli, then carrots, then peas, but when she tried the cauliflower, she immediately spit it out and declared her distaste for it. Eating broccoli and carrots was a big step for her, though! I don’t remember ever disliking cauliflower, and this, THIS is totally my jam. Even with the funktastic aroma that’s sure to permeate my apartment. I can’t wait to make this.

    Thinking of you today :) I hope everything goes well.

    • says

      Hehehe, that’s so funny that she likes broccoli but not cauliflower. Still, it is admirable that a 12 year old is taking interest in any vegetables! (I certainly wasn’t at that age.)

      Surgery went well. And her lymph node biopsy was negative, so that’s great. They still have to do an analysis on all of the tissue they removed to make sure any further treatment isn’t necessary, so I guess I’m holding back from saying “yay!” just yet. (But still, yay! The negative biopsy is a HUGE relief.)

  2. says




    What have you even done.

    Oh my god, this actually sounds like the best thing in the entire world.

    I am the biggest cauliflower fan EVER – I am serious when I say that I could probably live entirely on roasted cauliflower (If you roast it with pancetta/ sliced bacon it gets even better). And you just put it into the BEST type of pasta :’) and and and the lemon and garlic and brussel sprouts…

    I think I’m dying to food love now.

    This will be made so soon it’s not even funny!

    Plus I want to pin all the photossss; so pretty!!!

    • says

      Not joking,

      I was just telling my mum about this because now I’m obsessed and I was thinking I could make it for my birthday next month,

      But then she told me that we have all the ingredients right now (well, of course we do because also all the ingredients are AWESOME things)

      So I am making this tomorrow.

      I am so happy I cant even….

      • says

        Ahahahahaha. YES. I am so glad you have all of the ingredients to make this!! Also, as I was putting the finished dish together, I was thinking to myself, “you know what would make this even better……BACON.” Tooootally throwing some in the next time I roast up cauliflower.

  3. katy says

    Oh, I get this. I really love cauliflower. The other night I made roasted cauliflower with red pepper flakes and feta for dinner and before I knew it I had consumed an entire cauliflower. Yup.

    • says

      Oh boy, I definitely know how that goes. (I’m pretty sure if I lived alone, I would roast entire trays of vegetables and then just set several towels on my lap so I could put the hot tray right on top, and then eat the whole thing. It would be……AWESOME.) Roasted cauliflower with red pepper flakes and feta sounds delicious!

    • says

      Thank you, Kankana! Making this dish made me so happy, because I got to combine two of my favorite things (cauliflower and pasta). I am so glad it turned out so well. If it didn’t, I think I would have been heartbroken!

  4. shweta says

    Once again, your website rescues me at work : ) how wonderful it would be if i can have a bite of this Gnochhi right now. We don’t eat eggs in our family, but the heavenly combination of garlic, cauliflower and parmesan cheese sets sparks to all different kind of combinations in my head. Thank you so much for inspiring !!

    And everything will go well with your mom. Amen to that !

    • says

      Thank you, Shweta! You know, when I was gathering the ingredients for this dough, I was thinking about our egg substitution discussion from the sesame cookies, and it occurred to me that a flax seed substitute would probably work perfectly for this (especially because the nutty flavor would be great with the rest of the ingredients). I’d love to try making a vegan version of this one day to see how it turns out, but if you want to give it a go, you can try subbing 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed + 2–3 tablespoons of water for each egg. (I only used egg yolks, so the less water, the better.)

      • shweta says

        Thanks Carey, i am definitely going to try to make this one..the flax seed substitute seems to be good enough. I am also deliciously dreaming of a cauliflower, garlic, cheese and other vegetable bake : )

  5. says

    You’re making a very strong case for stolid cauliflower, I hope you know! :) I still want to make that cauliflower puree you put in those pop tarts recently, but this sounds really really good. I love that you fried brussels sprouts to go along with it! Did it help at all in ridding your apartment of its funky smell?

    Hope everything goes smoothly in Albany!

    • says

      Hehe, oh man, I think those brussels sprouts made it even funkier. Although the butter took the edge off a little bit. :)

      Surgery went well! My mom came home today, so we’re just waiting for final test results to know for sure that this is all over with. (Definitely glad to put that surgery behind us. Yeesh, what a day yesterday was.)

  6. says

    You know, I really haven’t eaten cauliflower very much. I think it’s because growing up we just never had them so I really have no clue what to do with them or how they’re usually prepared/used. But you have converted me! I need to try and incorporate more vegetables into my life, and cauliflower mash and gnocchi sound like excellent and delicious places to start!

    • says

      Yes! I love cauliflower in all forms, but especially amazing stuff happens to it when you give it a good dose of heat. The cauliflower mash is an awesome place to start. It’s super easy and sooo tasty. (I also made my parents some roasted cauliflower the other night, since they’d never had it prepared that way. I accidentally over-cooked it and made it a little too crispy, and they still loved it.)

    • says

      Thank you! I love my giant prop board. (I dream that one day I’ll be able to set it up like a real table in a room with perfect light, rather than dragging it out from behind a shelf every time I want to use it.) Also, this dream room with perfect light will NOT be a tiny living room…… :)

      • says

        Ha! That’s so funny, I drag my prop board out from behind my bookshelves too!! It’s the only place tall enough that I can tuck it away behind without it poking out all awkwardly. I saw picture of the studio that White on Rice shoots in and it is amazing. Windows down to the floor, can you believe it?? I would kill for windows to the floor! And like you said, more space. Having a special room for photography stuff rather than making a living room work would be AMAZING.

        • says

          Oh my god, seeing professional studio spaces makes me want to cry! I can barely even imagine what it would be like to have a dedicated space to do photography, let alone a giant amazing one filled with props and perfect things. One day!

  7. says

    This dish sound amazing! You had me at Garlic-Cauliflower Gnocchi. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Very creative and the pictures are beautiful!!!

  8. says

    Just tried this. Loved it! I’m a big cauliflower believer, so when I saw this my eyes were wide.

    I did change the recipe a little. I rice the cauliflower before, steam, and squeeze out the water in a light dishcloth, then puree. Different method with same outcome. For the gnocchi dough, I always use less flower and keep the gnocchi slightly sticky in the bowl. The flowered surface for rolling the dough adds a the last extra. Thoughts? I only cooked half the batch, and froze the rest. Next, I try it with a sage butter sauce. Thanks!

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jessica! I’m also glad to hear your slightly modified method worked just fine. I’ve had a couple of gnocchi failures in the past where the dough just would not come together because my base was too soft/mushy, so that’s why I’m now hesitant to purée things too much. But it’s good to know that it works!

  9. says

    oh wow, this sounds amazing! So happy to have found your blog via pinterest … beautiful food + photos. I cannot wait to make this one.

  10. Cathy says

    Delish!!! My 9y/o and I made the gnocchi this afternoon since she was home for a snow day! We just finished devouring it! The gnocchi combined with the Brussel sprouts is brilliant! Will definitely be making this one again!

  11. Marley says

    Have you ever had Blomkaalsuppe? It’s a scandinavian cauliflower soup (according to Betty Crocker). Since you love cauliflower and like sharing your great recipes with the world, I’ll share this one with you! I hope you like it :)

    2 cups water
    1 medium cauliflower, separated
    1 medium onion, sliced
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 cup water
    1 tablespoon veggie boullion
    1/2 tsp celery salt (I never have this around and it comes out just fine without it!)
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 cup half and half

    Simmer onion and cauliflower in 2 cups of water till tender; do not drain. Blend (water and all) until smooth.
    Melt butter and stir in flour; cook till smooth and bubbly. Stir in 1 cup of water and heat to boiling, stirring contantly; boil for 1 minute. Stir in cauliflower puree, boullion, salts, and pepper. Heat juts until hot.

    This soup is awesome. You can eat it hot or cold and it doesn’t loose an ounce of awesomeness. Sprinkle with nutmeg for even more awesomeness :D

    • says

      Oh my, that sounds soooo good! I made something that was sort of similar to this (at least ingredient-wise, perhaps not as far as portions go) a while ago, and it was delicious. I never have celery salt either, but I do have a giant bottle of celery bitters, and that works wonders! Thanks for sharing, Marley — I’m definitely going to have to give this recipe a try. :)

  12. Kate H. says

    Wow, this was great!! Glad I stumbled across it on Pinterest. I had only ever attempted to make gnocchi once, and it was a disaster. These were delicious.

    Question for Carey:

    Do you know if the dough can be made in advance and refrigerated? I’d love to make this some day for a dinner party but am worried it would put me in a time crunch. Just curious. Thanks so much for sharing this great recipe!

    • says

      So glad you enjoyed them, Kate! I’ve had my fair share of sticky gnocchi disasters…no fun at all.

      These would actually be great made ahead of time too! I’d make them a few days in advance and freeze them. I like to make giant batches of gnocchi, then arrange whatever I’m not going to cook immediately on a baking sheet and stick it in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so, or until the gnocchi are pretty well frozen and aren’t in danger of smushing/sticking together. Then I’ll transfer them to a freezer-safe bag and toss them back in the freezer. They will take a little bit longer to cook from their frozen state (just a couple minutes more in the boiling water), but they still taste just as good. :)

  13. PamM says

    Has anyone tried this recipe using whole wheat flour for the AP flour? My husband is diabetic, but loves gnocchi, and if I could make this with WW flour, I think it would work for him. Thanks for posting such an awesome recipe.

    • says

      Hi Pam! Although I haven’t made this recipe with whole wheat flour, I think it would absolutely work. The dough should still be quite easy to work with, and it would lend a really nice, nutty whole wheat taste to the gnocchi. If you do try it, let me know how it works out!

  14. says

    I love cauliflower so I’m right there with you. This is on my to make list, but I’m curious, how does the texture compare to potato gnocchi? I’m curious because potato is obviously much starchier but I’m sure you accommodate for this in your ratio of flour.

    • says

      I’d say the texture is pretty similar (although the fact that I pan fry them may be masking some of the subtle differences). I added a wee bit more flour than I would with regular potato gnocchi, but really not all that much. The dough itself was maybe a tiny bit softer than potato gnocchi, but nothing that was difficult to work with. :)

  15. Michelle says

    Hi Carey! I just discovered your blog through Pinterest and I am LOVING it. Your recipes look amazing and your posts are fun to ready! So I want to make this for dinner tonight but will definitely need to freeze most of it for later. At what point in the recipe do you think I should freeze them? I was thinking maybe after forming the dough into little pieces but before boiling the pasta?

    • says

      Hi Michelle! Thanks so much! :)

      You’re totally right. I freeze the ravioli right after they’ve been formed. Then you can just go right from the freezer to a pot of boiling water when you’re ready to make them.

  16. mimi-louise says

    I love the sound of this except the only reason I would go to the extra step of doing the cauliflower mash in this situation is to avoid the wheat flour all together…I wonder if it would work as well with gluten free flour? Maybe spelt? Hmm…perhaps it bears experimentation.

    • says

      I think this would probably work well with a gluten-free flour (and the flavor of spelt would work nicely). Since you aren’t really working the dough and activating the glutens in the flour, it’s serving more as something to dry up the dough and make it less sticky. If you do try it, let me know how it goes!

  17. Aardvark says

    Fellow cauliflower lover here… Just got finished making these and they are dyn-o-mite!

    FYI, what I did was roast the cauliflower and garlic with a little vegetable broth the night before, then before making the gnocchi I roasted them again on real low for about an hour to dry them out. Threw them and the egg yolks and parm into the Vitamix. Since my mixture was already pretty dry I only had to use a 1/2 cup of flower. Way fewer carbs and still delicious. Will make these over and over!

    The Mrs. will be home soon and I can’t wait to spring these on her! Thanks a mil.

    • says

      Yay! So glad you’re enjoying them! And I LOVE the roasting method. I am a serious fan of roasted cauliflower, and I can imagine how awesome that flavor is in the gnocchi, especially with the vegetable broth. Definitely doing it your way next time. :) Woohoo!

  18. Tanz says

    We love cauliflower in our house & often substitute a cauliflower/cream cheese purée for mashed spud. Low carb & gorgeous.

    To stop the funky smell when cooking cauliflower in water I add a bay leaf or two – helps no end.

    Thanks for the recip. Will be trying it really soon.

  19. LingLing says

    I just made this with a few Gluten free substitutes and it worked our perfectly. I’m so happy I stumbled upon this great recipe. Thanks so much!!

  20. Jayne says

    I cannot even begin to tell you how tasty this was. I was dubious about how long it would take to drain the cauliflower mash, but the results are so incredibly worth it. I had brussels sprouts to play with this time, but I’m really excited about trying it with kale too. Checked some comments too- next time I’ll try roasting the cauliflower first, that sounds amazing! Next time, maybe I’ll add I crumbled bacon so the man in my life will share :) amazing recipe!


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