This recipe was as huge hit with our pilot participants.  The dish’s cauliflower and white bean topping is arguably richer and tastier than the traditional potato topping…and the kids won’t know it doesn’t have potatoes unless you tell them!  Consider making these in individual portions and freezing extra servings for a last-minute heat-and-serve meal.  For a fantastic vegetarian meal, try the tempeh variation.

Preparation time:  15 minutes
Total time:  45 minutes
Makes 6 servings

  • – 1 small to medium head cauliflower, cut into large pieces (about 4 to 6 cups)
  • – 1 large onion, quartered
  • – 2 cloves garlic
  • – 1 medium fennel bulb (or substitute 4 small carrots), cut into large pieces
  • – 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • – 8 ounces sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • – 1 ½ pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • – 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • – 1/8 teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • – 6 ounces canned tomato paste
  • – ½ cup water
  • – Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • – 1 ¾ cups cooked cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

Place the cauliflower in a pot and add water just to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While cauliflower is cooking, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the onion, garlic, and fennel in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion mixture, mushrooms, beef, ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until the beef is browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir the tomato paste and water together in a small bowl and add the mixture to the skillet with the beef.  Add the cayenne (if using) and turn off the heat.

Drain the cauliflower, return it to the pot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the white beans.  Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.

Transfer the beef mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or 6 individual 4 or 5 inch ramekins).  Top with the cauliflower mixture.  Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling.

Serve immediately.  Cool and refrigerate or freeze extra portions.  If you refrigerate assembled pies, then reheat in a preheated 375°F oven until warm throughout, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Variations:  For a vegetarian version, substitute 1 recipe Crumbled Tempeh for the beef, increase water to 1 cup, and reduce salt by ½ teaspoon or to taste.

Substitute 1 ½ pounds ground turkey or ground lamb for the beef.