Vegetarian Cauliflower Balls with Spicy Marinara Sauce

By James Bacon @jamesbaconcooks

Cauliflower is in season! So what better way to celebrate this wonderful vegetable than drowning it in a rich, cheesy sauce, enrobing it in bread crumbs and deep frying it.

These little balls of tastiness are perfect as canapés or a great snack between meal times.

Kitchen tools needed:

  • Cole & Mason Saunderton herb shaker
  • Cole & Mason Herb Chopper
  • baking tray
  • large bowl (that fits in your microwave)
  • large sauce pan,
  • 3 shallow bowls

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes but also 1 and a half hours for refrigerating  


Serves 30 balls (for 3 - 4 balls each it will serve 8 - 10 people)


  • large Cauliflower 600g
  • 125g cheddar cheese
  • 125g parmesan cheese (plus 30g for the breadcrumbs)
  • 100g of good melting cheese eg Gruyere, mozzarella, Taleggio or even more cheddar (this will be cut in to 1cm cubes)
  • 80g butter
  • 80g flour
  • 400ml whole milk
  • 2 tsp English mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (plus another 1/2 for the seasoned flour)
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 80g plain flour
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 200g of panko breadcrumbs or white breadcrumbs (not golden breadcrumbs)

for the spicy marinara sauce:

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 small banana shallot finely diced
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tbs of chopped fresh Basil
  • 20g butter
  • a good shake of chilli flakes


  1. Place half the cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until rice consistency and place in large microwavable bowl, then blitz the other half but keep it a little chunkier for a bit of texture and add it to the rest.
  2. Cook in a microwave until tender (this will be 5-7 mins on full power spending on desired texture) empty onto a baking tray to cool and dry out.
  3. Heat the butter on a low heat until it melts
  4. add the flour and cook the roux for 3-5 minutes, whisk in the milk a bit at a time until you have a really thick creamy sauce, you might not need all the milk so be careful.
  5. Then add the mustard, smoked sweet paprika, nutmeg and sat and pepper then slowly  stir in the cheese.
  6. Check the seasoning, it should be really punchy with cheesy flavour this will mellow when you add it to the cauliflower.
  7. Mix in to the cauliflower and refrigerate on the tray for 1 hour until mixture is firm.
  8. Remove from fridge, take a table spoon and scoop out some mixture in to clean hands and place a cube of the melting cheese in the middle and roll in to a ball, continue until all mixture is done (at this point I place back in to the fridge for 1/2 hour to firm in the balls but this is not essential)
  9. Start the sauce by cooking the shallots in the butter until nice and soft
  10. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, and cook for 5-7 minutes
  11. add the chopped basil and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  12. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  13. Take 3 shallow bowls and place each of the pane (breaded) ingredients in to them egg in one flour in another
  14. finally panko in the last, add salt, pepper and more of the smoked sweet paprika to the flour and the rest of the parmesan to the panko.
  15. Take a ball and roll it in the flour, then place in to the egg, then roll in the panko, back to the egg and then back in to the panko place on a tray
  16. Heat up enough vegetable oil to cover the balls in a pan to 180 degrees or set a deep fat fryer to 180 degrees.
  17. Take a enough of the balls as not tot crowd the pan and fry for 4 minutes (Don’t knock them about, they can be a bit fragile) remove and place on a rack or some kitchen paper.
  18. Cook in batches until they’re all done, you can also place in an oven set at about 90 degrees to keep warm until finished.
  19. Serve in a nice bowl with the reheated sauce and enjoy!

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