Baked Cheese Tortellini with Cauliflower and Kale

Baked Cheese Tortellini with Cauliflower and Kale

Prep Time:  About 1 Hour
Serves:  6 – 8 People


15 oz. Cheese Tortellini
1 Head Cauliflower
6 Tbsp. Butter
6 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
3 Cups Heavy Cream
Pinch of Nutmeg
2 Cups Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
½ Large Yellow Onion, sliced
1 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Bunch of Kale
3 Cups Cubed Ham (about 1 pound, cut into ¼” dice)
½ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, Minced
1 tsp. Granulated Garlic
Salt and Pepper


Preheat oven to 375F.

Chop the cauliflower into florets the same size as the tortellini.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and the cauliflower into the boiling water together.  Boil them for about 2 minutes and then empty the contents into a colander and run it under cold water.  Empty the contents into a large mixing bowl, drizzle with a bit of olive oil so that the pasta doesn’t stick together, give it a stir and set aside.

Next, In a pot over medium heat gently melt 4 Tbsp. of butter (half a stick). Once melted add 4 Tbsp. of minced garlic. Stir the garlic around for a minute until you can smell it flavoring the butter.  Next, add 2 ½ cups of heavy cream to the pot and bring to a boil.  Stirring it so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, add the nutmeg and about a ¼ tsp. black pepper, stir them into the cream and let it simmer for about 2 minutes, you will see it start to thicken and coat the back of your spoon.  At this point, remove the pot from the heat and slowly begin to stir in the parmesan cheese.  Once you have stirred it all in and it has gotten pretty melty, return the pot to the heat and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes.  Don’t get stressed if the sauce doesn’t get super smooth, parmesan is not the easiest cheese to melt.  While it is simmering you may stir in the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream to help smooth the sauce out if it has gotten thick.  Once the cheese sauce is relatively smooth set it aside until it’s time to assemble your dish.

Next prepare the kale. First, wash the kale and then rip the leaves off of the thick woody stem. Tear the leaves into large pieces – about 2  inch chunks. Next, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle it with salt and sautee until translucent.  Next, add the remaining mined garlic and red pepper flakes, stir these around for about a minute.  Then add the kale and a splash of water.  Stir the kale around for about 2 minutes.  It will become gently wilted but still retain a nice dark green color.  Taste and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper if it needs it.

The last step before assembling the dish is to prepare the breadcrumb topping. To do this, simply combine the breadcrumbs with the parsley, granulated garlic and a bit of salt and pepper.  Mix together and set aside.

You can now assemble the dish. Using the large bowl which holds the pasta and cauliflower first stir in the warm cheese sauce, next fold in the cubed pieces of ham, followed by gently stirring in the kale so that it  weaves itself throughout the cauliflower, pasta and ham. Next, butter a 9 X 13 baking dish and empty the pasta mixture into the dish, using a large spoon to spread it all out evenly in the dish. Next, sprinkle the top evenly with the breadcrumbs. 2 Tbsp. of butter have remained, melt those – I use the microwave – and drizzle the melted butter over the breadcrumbs.

Place the baking dish in the center of your preheated oven, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the sides of the baked pasta are bubbling and the breadcrumbs are nice a golden you can remove the dish from the oven.

Allow the dish to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.