Growing up, my mom used to make us macaroni with marinara sauce and cheese and it was one of the most delicious side dishes I remember. Now, as a health-conscious adult, I very (and I do mean VERY) rarely eat pasta. Seriously, I don’t even remember the last time I had any sort of pasta. But that’s because I substitute it with different types of vegetables!

While many of us have heard of spaghetti squash, it’s too time-consuming to make -though incredibly delicious. You have to bake the squash for about an hour, and that’s where you lose my interest. I rarely plan my meals ahead of time, so anything that takes more than 30-40 minutes total is out the window. That’s why I use other veggies to replace spaghetti, macaroni and the like. And when I was craving something Italian-flavored, specifically my mom’s macaroni marinara, I happened to have some cauliflower and voila! One of my favorite most decadent-tasting sides was born!

Cauliflower is very versatile when it comes to substituting grains. Many people use it instead of rice, and some even make pizza dough out of it. You can chop it in different sizes and cook it for varying times (or not cook it at all) to achieve different textures, and its mild flavor lends itself to almost any type of dish. (I strongly recommend it curried! *drool*)

For this recipe, you’ll need everything you’d use to make spaghetti marinara, except for the spaghetti. And, as always, this is a guideline. If you feel like adding some other ingredients I didn’t include, go for it! Experiment and share what improvements you made to the recipe!



1 large head of cauliflower (chopped coarsely)

1 large onion (chopped)

2 celery stalks (chopped)

1 bell pepper (chopped)

4 medium tomatoes / 2 cans of tomato sauce

3-5 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 tbsp. Coconut oil / rendered fat

4 oz of grated cheese (mozzarella or muenster)






Makes: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes



  • In a large pan, heat cooking fat on medium heat and add onion, celery, and peppers. Sautee for a couple of minutes.

  • When the onions start to soften up, add in the cauliflower and minced garlic. Season with salt, pepper, cumin (and any other seasoning you may want to use). Sautee for 10 minutes at medium-high heat or until cauliflower begins to soften.

  • Add tomatoes/tomato sauce. Season with a bit more salt and pepper, oregano, and basil (chopped fine if using fresh basil). Mix well.

  • Lower to medium heat and let it simmer covered for 4-8 minutes depending on how “al dente” you want your cauliflower. Stir around occasionally.
  • Sprinkle cheese all over and cover for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted.

  • Either toss it a bit before serving to mix the cheese in or serve with cheese sprinkled on top. It goes well with pretty much anything!

Again, you can add or substitute anything. I use pork fat to cook most of the time, so my dishes are rarely truly vegetarian, but you could easily adapt this recipe for a vegan eater! Just sub the offending items! Use coconut oil or any other vegetable oil and omit the cheese or replace it with a vegan cheese. Anyone can make and enjoy this side-dish and it’s a great way of convincing people to stop eating pasta! 😉

Let me know how the recipe worked for you! Did you make any changes? Sharing is caring!