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Cook's Country

How to Get Parmesan to Stick to Roasted Vegetables

Learn the secret ingredient—it’s likely already in your pantry—that gets the cheese to stick. 

You love roasted vegetables but want to dress them up so that they eat a little more “extra.” Luckily for you, you adore Parmesan cheese so much that you always keep a piece of carefully wrapped Parmigiano-Reggiano in the fridge. The solution seems obvious here: Grate some Parm onto your cauliflower/broccoli/carrots/squash/sweet potatoes, roast, eat, and smile. 

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Sorry, but it’s not quite that easy. You see, vegetables exude moisture when you roast them. That’s kind of the point of cooking them that way: to drive off a bit of moisture to concentrate their flavor and texture (and pick up flavorful browning). And that steamy moisture washes whatever Parm you’ve sprinkled on them right off.

Sure, you can grate cheese over your fully cooked roasted vegetables, but that turns the cheese into a garnish and not an integrated ingredient. So what do you do? Well, you need a binder. But wet ingredients, such as eggs or milk, don’t work as a binder for the cheese here (we’ve tested them, and they don’t help the Parm stick). 

Instead, open your pantry and reach for an ingredient that most of us keep around: cornstarch.

When developing the recipe for Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower, former Cook’s Country test cook Alli Berkey hit upon this great technique.

For 2 pounds of cauliflower florets:

  • Stir together a coating of 1½ cups of grated Parmesan and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (you can easily halve those numbers for similarly great results).
  • Toss the florets with 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and then with the cheese-cornstarch mix.
  • Roast the florets on a rimmed baking sheet (sprayed with vegetable oil spray first) at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping the florets at the 15-minute mark. 

Cornstarch is often used to control moisture in recipes, and that’s exactly what it does here; as the liquid is pushed out of the roasting cauliflower, the cornstarch absorbs it and, along with the grated Parm, creates a coating that stays put and browns up beautifully against the hot baking sheet. It seems counterintuitive, but cornstarch works like a dream here to adhere the cheese to the roasted cauliflower.

This technique works with most any vegetable that cooks through in a similar amount of time (potatoes are a great option). Try it for yourself and see!