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Feb 21

Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake

Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake in the baking dish

This Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake is a satisfying meatless meal your whole family will love (mine does!). The saucy, cheesy flavors in this dish mimic those in a traditional chicken or eggplant parmesan, but using cauliflower and barley! If that seems weird to you, just trust me, it’s delicious. Cauliflower is my husband’s favorite vegetable, but I generally feel kind of “meh” about it most of the time. I think this dish has made me a cauliflower believer! There’s so much craveable comfort food flavor here and I found a serving to be very filling.

After posting my Cheesy Spicy Black Bean Skillet earlier this month, I got great feedback and requests for more meatless meals. I’m happy to oblige! Sometimes meals without meat can feel a bit like a side dish, but this one is hearty and substantial enough for even my meat-loving husband to enjoy it as a main course. He calls this “Cauliflower Pizza Casserole” because he thinks the flavors taste like pizza. Whatever you call it, a 1 ¼ cups serving of this Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake is just 268 calories or 8 WW Points per serving! To view your current WW Points for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site, click here.


The prep time for this Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake isn’t bad at all. You basically just need to cut cauliflower into florets and then mix everything together. It’s super easy. The cook time, however, takes a while. This will need to bake covered for an hour and then go back in uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. This is all in the instructions below, but I wanted to point it out so that you make sure to leave yourself enough time! You’ll probably want to get started about an hour and a half before you want to eat, but most of that time will be hands-off, leaving you free to do other things.

Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake in a bowl

Recipe Tips

  • Barley or Farro – The recipe I adapted to make this dish actually uses farro rather than barley and I’ve made it both ways. It’s delicious either way. Barley and farro have a very similar flavor and texture, but in my experience it’s much easier to find barley in stores. If you have pearled or semi-pearled farro on hand, you can absolutely substitute it. Either way, for an accurate cook time, make sure the grain you’re using is pearled or semi-pearled.
  • Possible Add-ins – I make this exactly as written and in my opinion it’s perfect. However, if you have some veggies you want to use up, or just want to bulk this up even further, you could definitely toss in some mushrooms, zucchini, sauteed onions, or olives. If you want to add meat I think a bit of spicy Italian sausage would be tasty. Anything you like on a pizza would probably taste good in here.
  • What should I serve this with? I feel like a saucy, cheesy, hearty comfort food casserole like this one pairs beautifully with a side salad. A balsamic dressing would go really nicely. My Easy Garlic Knots would also be delicious with this dish!

Looking for more Italian-inspired recipes like this Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake? Check out my Creamy Tuscan Chicken, Pasta Fagioli Soup, One-Pot Meatballs and Macaroni, Crispy Chicken Parmesan, Italian Sausage Bread, Caprese Salad, Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini, One-Pot Turkey and Veggie Spaghetti, Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Bake, Tuscan Olive Chicken, Italian Wedding Pasta Skillet, Sausage and Tortellini Tomato Soup, Bruschetta Topped Balsamic Chicken, Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells, Zuppa Toscana, Eggplant Parmesan Casserole, and many more in the Italian category of my recipe index!

Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake in the baking dish
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4.88 from 8 votes
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Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake

This Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake is a satisfying, meatless comfort food meal that vegetarians and meat-eaters will both love!


  • 2 lbs uncooked cauliflower florets
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked pearl barley, or pearled farro
  • 24 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 oz finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 oz 2% milk shredded Mozzarella cheese


  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the cauliflower, barley, marinara sauce, tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, garlic, 2 ounces of the Parmesan cheese, the oregano, onion powder, sugar, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add the water and stir again until well mixed. Transfer the entire mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and spread it out evenly. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
  • While you’re waiting, combine the remaining ounce of Parmesan with ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs and the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and stir together. Set aside.
  • When the hour is up, uncover the baking dish and stir. Check on doneness. You want the barley to be almost finished cooking. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella across the top. Top the shredded cheese with the panko/parmesan mixture. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the barley is cooked, the sauce has thickened, and the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.


To view your current WW Points for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site, click here!
WW Points per (1 ¼ cup) serving: 8 (Points calculated using the recipe builder on weightwatchers.com)
Nutrition Information per (1 ¼ cups) serving:
268 calories, 38 g carbs, 8 g sugars, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 14 g protein, 9 g fiber, 780 mg sodium (from myfitnesspal.com)
Weight Watchers PointsPlus:
7 per (1 ¼ cups) serving (PP calculated using the recipe builder on weightwatchers.com)
Adapted from The NY Times

12 comments on “Cauliflower and Barley Parmesan Bake”

  1. Delicious! I added turkey sausage. Next time, I’ll try adding mushroom & topping with turkey pepperoni. The casserole is adaptable & will be definitely added to my dinner rotation.5 stars

  2. This is really good. I loved the chewiness of the barley. I’ll make this again!5 stars

  3. THIS IS SO GOOD. My store had pearled farro over barley, so that’s what I used, but otherwise made it as described. “I could eat this every day” – my husband. My only feedback would be to mix all ingredients except the cauliflower first, then stir in cauliflower, then stir in water. Maybe I chopped my florets a little on the bigger side, but the stirring was a little unwieldy. I had a fairly large bowl but will definitely grab a bigger one next time, because I didn’t really have room to stir in the water–ultimately more or less mixed it with water going in the baking dish and it worked out just fine. 2 heads of cauliflower worked out to 2lbs. This will definitely be a regular dinner for us!5 stars

  4. Oh and I will add–this is working out great as leftovers. We’re popping it into the oven low at 190 for 30-40 min while we do other evening stuff, and it tastes perfect every time. I think it would microwave well if you need it to be ready faster.5 stars

  5. This was really good! I made exactly as directed. Great vegetarian main dish.

  6. Questions! I was going to use Frozen Cauliflower rice (since it’s here and handy!) – also, I have Quick Cook pearled barley in the pantry. Thoughts on cooking Cauli Rice in microwave first, or just dethaw enough to mix and then bake? Also, any thoughts on time adjustments for Quick Cook Barley? Appreciate any assist anyone can offer! Looking forward to this!

  7. All your works of yours are actually so very beautiful because they actually share so much knowledge with everyone present here. Thankfulness for the manner in which you actually do this.5 stars

  8. All your works of yours are actually so very beautiful because they actually share so much knowledge with everyone present here. Thankfulness for the manner in which you actually do this.5 stars

  9. I was very skeptical about this recipe, yet I was also intrigued. I read and reread it several times and finally decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did. It is delicious and there is no cauliflower taste! I only made 1/2 of the amount since there are only two of us at home. And I did change a few things. I used Farro and only used a red sauce adding the extra amount that the tomato sauce called for. I didn’t see the need to open a tomato sauce can. I also love garlic but was a little too much this time. I will tone it down when I make it again. So, thank you so much for this delicious and healthy dinner!

    Brook5 stars

  10. Gracias por la información publicada y saludos desde nuestro portal web con publicaciones sobre la lotería de Euromillones.4 stars

  11. This recipe is AMAZING! I’ve never commented on a recipe before, and I cook a good deal, so this means something. We all loved it so much. Added a bit of vegetarian sausage to half. So yummy.

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