This vegan Italian-style cauilflower rice is one of the most effortless dishes to throw together, which makes it perfect for a busy weeknight. Plus, it’s packed with feel-good veggies to help you power through those exceptionally over-scheduled days.
I tend to make cauliflower rice at least twice a week. I love pairing it with roasted vegetables or another hearty side for a meal, and I usually season it with chili-garlic sauce and tamari. It’s become a weeknight staple in our house because it comes together in a quick 20 to 30ish minutes and is incredibly versatile.
A few Sundays ago, Dan and I decided to cram just about everything we could into one day. We biked to a restaurant for lunch. We checked out a new bike trail in the city (fellow Chicagoans, The Bloomingdale Trail is awesome). We biked around Wicker Park. We biked to a movie theater in Lincoln Park (but not before going the wrong direction for a solid 2 miles — my finger is pointed at Dan on this one).
After our 4-mile detour, we ended up in the cookbook aisle at Barnes & Noble. I have no idea how that happened. Then, we saw not one but two movies when we finally made it to the theater. And then we biked back home.
9 hours, 20 miles, and some seriously fatigued legs later, we were both a bit hangry. I hardly felt like cooking but we were too hungry to order something and wait and too tired to shower and make ourselves presentable enough to strut into a restaurant. So, this Italian-style cauliflower rice came to be from the randomness adorning our cupboards and refrigerator shelves at that moment.
I kept my expectations low as I tossed whatever I could into the pan, but we ended up loving it so much that I’ve made it 4 times since that night. And the orange-tinged rice seemed to grab your attention on Instagram, so I couldn’t keep this delicious but random dish a secret any longer. Here you go.
This is one of the most effortless dishes to throw together, which makes it perfect for a busy weeknight. You’ll start by ricing a large head of cauliflower…
Then, you’ll add it to a large (the largest one you’ve got) skillet along with crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, giardiniera (optional), balsamic, garlic, capers (optional), a bit of Bragg’s aminos or tamari (to add depth), dried basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer it all over medium heat for a good 15 minutes, then add in a couple cups of baby spinach and cook for another 10ish minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off. Season with a little salt, sprinkle on some fresh basil, and serve. That’s it. This dish is pretty forgiving, so feel free add and subtract ingredients to personalize it to your tastes.
Also, I’ve been told that giardiniera is a midwest thing, so I should probably clarify what it is. First and foremost, it’s not a disease. No, no, not at all. It’s a delicious condiment that’s a combination of pickled/oiled hot peppers, carrots, celery, cauliflower, and olives. It’s one of my favorite things to add to hummus, and it lends an awesome crunch and subtle pop of heat to this dish. If you have some on hand, I absolutely recommend adding it.
Italian-Style Cauliflower Rice
- 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (no salt added) or less to taste
- 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1/4 cup mild giardiniera, oil strained off (optional)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Bragg's Aminos or tamari (adds depth to the flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 2 heaping cups baby spinach (about 2.5 ounces)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Rice the cauliflower florets by either processing in a food processor with a grater attachment, pulsing in a food processor with a s-blade, or grating by hand with a grater. If you pulse it in the food processor, you'll want to divide it into two batches so that it evenly processes. You want rice-sized pieces.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the riced cauliflower, crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, giardiniera, balsamic vinegar, capers, garlic, dried basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally. Then, add in the baby spinach and cook another 8 to 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked off, stirring frequently. Add the sea salt and adjust seasoning according to taste preferences. If you added the giardiniera and capers, 1/4 teaspoon of salt will likely be plenty; however, if you skipped on one or both, I suggest adding more to season it properly.
- Remove from heat, stir in the chopped fresh basil, and serve.