Cauliflower and Apple Soup with Olive Oil-Fried Bread

cauliflower and apple soup with olive oil-fried bread

Cauliflower eluded my kitchen for far too long. I discovered it only about a year ago, in roasted form at high heat tossed with nothing but olive oil and kosher salt, a method which produces perfectly charred salty florets, addictive bites that lead me to eat heads of cauliflower in single sittings.

Today, while those crispy bits have lost none of their allure, I find myself most enjoying cauliflower in the form of a velvety smooth puréed soup. This recipe calls for simmering cauliflower in milk with an apple and a few strands of pasta, the milk and apple included to temper the cauliflower’s intensity, the pasta to provide just enough starch to ensure a creamy texture when the mixture is puréed. Interesting, right? Once again, I have Sally Schneider to thank for this recipe, which really is more of a method than anything, one that could be applied to a countless number of vegetables — turnips, carrots, rutabaga, celery root, to name a few.

This recipe begins as a purée — the cauliflower and apple are strained from the cooking liquid and blended until smooth — which is delicious on its own and would be a nice accompaniment to duck or roast chicken or any meat really. To make the soup, the reserved cooking liquid is simply whisked into the purée, heated, and garnished. Both the purée and the soup are silky smooth in texture, and for containing just a few teaspoons of butter, taste incredibly creamy.

While this recipe does call for milk, apparently, I am learning, the milk is optional. After reading Food52’s post about Paul Bertolli’s cauliflower soup, made with nothing but a head of cauliflower, an onion and water, I questioned the necessity of milk. My friend Darcy, too, confirmed that a creamy texture can indeed be achieved with no cream at all. But I couldn’t resist. I almost felt guilty pouring that quart of milk into the pot, PB’s recipe flashing into my mind, but I rationalized that a little 1% milk never hurt anybody and that I likely could use the calcium. That said, next up on my to-make list is PB’s soup, and for those of you looking for a vegan option for creamy cauliflower soup, know that it’s out there.

For fun, I topped the soup with some olive oil-fried bread cubes, one of Schneider’s many suggested garnishes. I took her up on another as well: a light drizzling of truffle oil. I know the economy is in the dumps, so please don’t feel this ingredient is a must, but if you happen to have a bottle on hand, perhaps on lockdown for a special occasion, maybe consider breaking it out. There’s never been a better time to open it.

cauliflower and apple


cauliflower and apples in soup pot

olive oil-fried bread

Cauliflower and Apple Soup
Source: Sally Schneider’s The Improvisational Cook
Yield = 3 cups, 4 servings

For the Purée:
1 medium cauliflower (1.75 lbs – 2 lbs) (Mine actually was only 1.25 lbs and it worked just fine)
1 small apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 quart 2% or whole milk (I used 1%)
1/2 oz. angel hair pasta (about 40 strands), broken into 2-inch pieces*
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of sugar
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crème fraîche or heavy cream (optional — I forgot to add this)
freshly ground white pepper (I never have white pepper on hand, and black pepper works just fine, though I didn’t add any pepper at all)

* I used spaghetti, not angel hair. Schneider notes that any other dry eggless pasta, broken into pieces if necessary, will work.

Make the purée:

1. Cut the cauliflower into florets and roughly chop. You should have 7 to 8 cups. (I didn’t measure and I didn’t even chop up the florets.)

2. Transfer the cauliflower to a medium saucepan and add the apple and milk. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and stir in the pasta, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is purée-tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Strain the mixture reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer the solids to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth, at least one minute, adding a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. (Alternatively, return the solids to the pan and purée them with an immersion blender.) Let the motor run for a minute or two, scraping down the sides several times until you have a fine purée. Add the butter and crème fraîche and season with a bit more salt if necessary, white pepper (optional) and another pinch of sugar (optional). Save the remaining cooking liquid for the soup (recipe below).

Note: You can prepare the purée several hours ahead of time and reheat it (or keep it warm for a shorter time), stirring occasionally, in a double boiler.

Cauliflower Soup with Many Garnishes
Serves 4

Schneider’s Notes: This soup lends itself to an endless number of garnishes such as crisp slivered or finely diced pancetta; diced olive oil-fried bread; a dusting of fennel pollen; crispy shallots; snipped fresh chives, chervil or flat-leafed parsley; a drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil. White truffle oil, used sparingly, adds an astonishing flavor note.

1. Place cauliflower and apple purée in a medium saucepan, whisk in an equal amount of the reserved cooking liquid or chicken broth (Note: I made the soup one day with chicken stock and another with the reserved cooking liquid. Both ways are good, but I prefer the reserved cooking liquid.), and stir in a little cream. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and adjust the seasoning. Add any of the garnishes mentioned above to each serving.

cauliflower and apple soup


  1. says

    Yum! All over this very soon – but how about that roasted cauliflower recipe you referenced in the beginning? Cauliflower hasn’t yet hit our kitchen either, so I’d be happy for some tips (though how much easier does it get than ‘high heat, olive oil and salt?’ :) Approximate temp would probably be all I’d need!

    • says

      Lindsay, hi! Always so nice to see your name! So, I think Liz may have already answered your question, but I roast my cauliflower at 450º for about 15 to 20 minutes. I usually just toss the florets in olive oil and kosher salt (sometimes pepper) but Liz’s suggestions sound nice too. When you’re cutting the florets from the stem, don’t worry about the pieces all being the same size — it’s nice to have the variety in texture. The bigger pieces will be crunchy, the smallest pieces will be crispy, and some of the medium-sized pieces might not be ideal in texture, but they are yummy all the same. I hope you like it! And I hope all is well!

  2. finewein says

    Sounds fabulous and I love the fact that the butter and cream are in such small the taste is there but not all the fat. I’m going to try this tonight and I’ll let you know! Thanks.

  3. Liz says

    450 degrees is good for roasting cauliflower. Black pepper and a little cayenne complement the cauliflower nicely–or smoky Aleppo pepper.

  4. lizzie says

    This looks amazingly simple and delicious. I wonder if the apple is essential as it is snowing hard and the only thing I dont have here is the apple. Thanks so much for pandering to my laziness as this blueprint for soup looks effortless.

    • says

      Lizzie — the apple flavor is very subtle, so I imagine your soup without the apple will be delicious — if that PB recipe that calls for just cauliflower, water and an onion is as delicious as people say, I think this soup would fare well without the apple as well… but I can’t make any promises of course. I say go for it!

  5. val says

    this sounds so good I am going to the market today. to what does the asterisk at the end of the angel hair pasta refer; did I miss something? also, any thoughts on which varieties of apple would be good?

    • says

      Oops! Val, thanks so much for pointing this out! I meant to say (and I will add this to the recipe immediately) that I used spaghetti, not angel hair, and that I think you probably could use any pasta as long as the amount of pasta is about a 1/2 oz. Schneider notes that any other dry eggless pasta, broken into pieces if necessary, will work. Hope that helps! As for apples, I used a Fuji, but I think any apple you enjoy eating will work just fine. The taste of the apple is subtle, but I feel it plays more of a role than just taste, if that makes any sense? I hope so. I hope the soup turns out well for you!

  6. says

    Just made a double batch of this this afternoon. Used gala apples, and 1 of the eight cups of milk was 1/2 & 1/2(what the hell, could get hit by a bus tomorrow!). Omitted the sugar, shook the salt shaker a couple extra times. I really liked it- a little different, but not so much that most wouldn’t enjoy it. A- absolutely LOVE your blog!!!!

    • says

      Lee — you are funny! So glad you liked this. And I hear what you’re saying — it is a little different, but I think most mashed potato eaters would find it a welcomed change? Thank you for your kind words, too.

  7. Liz says

    Great winter soup–and so quick! Can’t get enough of those cruciferous vegetables. I added some cayenne for a little bite, but it was great just as is, too. And I love your recipe for croutons (included with your kale salad), completely addictive.

  8. Liz says

    Here’s a p.s. to my last comment on the cauliflower soup. I made it again today. This time I added 2 apples, in half-inch cubes (Fuji–they hold their shape, and they aren’t too sweet). Then, instead of pureeing all of the soup, I pureed about half of the soup, maybe a touch more and poured it back into the pot. This cubes of apple and the small florets created a chunkier texture, which I thought was appealing–although, of course, others may prefer the smoother texture. I did add cayenne again, and I omitted the butter and creme fraiche. With two apples, I’m not sure you need that pinch of sugar either, or just the tiniest bit.

    • says

      Thanks for this, Liz. I considered adding two apples as well. Will do next time. Love the idea of some texture in the soup, too. I was thinking of caramelizing some diced apples for another garnish and some more texture.

  9. says

    This soup looks awesome! I feel compelled to feature you in my Friday Food Fetish roundup and on Pinterest. Let me know if you have any objections and keep the amazing food coming…

  10. says

    Seriously so fabulous. Just whipped it together tonight. roasted the caulifower at 430* (I was feeling a bit odd at the time) for 15 minutes, just til coloured … served soup along side grilled cheese – muesnter cheese + rye bread. Delish. Thank you! Your recipes are always first on my “Let’s try something new” list =)

    ps. Baby enjoyed steamed cauliflower + beets for dinner, too 😉

  11. Kathrin says

    I am with Kati in the cauliflower fan club, grew up with them as a side dish (though I’ve never had it roasted, will have to try that as soon as I’ve had this soup!). To those of you looking for another way of enjoying it, one of our traditional ways is to just cook it in water with a little salt and milk, which helps the cauliflower maintain its color. It shouldn’t fall apart, but should be soft throughout. Then we melt a sizable chunk of butter (oh yes!) with heavily seasoned breadcrumbs and spread this mixture over the cauliflower before serving. The soft, creamy flavor of the cauliflower provides a very nice complement to the buttery seasoning. If the breadcrumbs are too much effort, just butter, salt and nutmeg will work nicely, too (though Germans put that on everything and are always delighted). Thank you, Ali, for yet another outstanding looking recipe, can’t wait to try it!

  12. says

    This looks like a great recipe! I am a big fan of cauliflower but haven’t done much with it. This soup looks delicious and I can’t wait to attempt to make it for my girlfriend! I have some recipes I have been trying out on my site and would love to hear your feedback. My site also deals with exercise techniques and other broad health subjects.

  13. says

    Hey :)
    We just cooked this tonight and it was simply delicious! we added a bit of our organic white truffle extra virgin olive oil and it was heavenly! thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Sandro — awesome to hear this! I actually have some cauliflower purée that I am planning on turning into soup tomorrow. I have been on a truffle oil kick after doing the post on burrata — I can’t find enough things to drizzle it over. It’s such a treat. So glad you like the soup.

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