Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini

July 18, 2014

Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini

My man Chris over at Shared Appetite, erupts with ideas like Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Pinatubo or the ever famous Mt. Eyjafjallajökull, erupt with lava and ash.
[Especially the latter to be honest. When I think of Chris bursting with ideas for some reason my mind travels to Mt. Eyjafjallajökull. Just like that.]
No but for real, Chris does a million things. He’s a teacher, a blogger, a cook and recently he even opened his very own photography studio (Ashe Photography Studio). He’s cool, that’s why he’s in my wolf pack.
About a month ago, he ran the idea of doing a Chopped Cooking Challenge (bloggers edition) by David at Spiced Blog, Sean at Snack Fixation and myself.
He even created a super cheesy cool graphic to convince us to participate.

Chopped Cooking Challenge

Are you guys familiar with the TV show “Chopped”?
In a nutshell, it’s show in which 4 chefs take a basket of 4 ingredients, and turn them into a dish - containing each of those 4 ingredients but also other stuff - that is judged on their creativity, presentation, and taste.
Since I love Chopped and - most of all - I love a good challenge, I accepted right away.

Making Cauliflower Crust Panini

First off, we opened it up to our readers on social media to choose 4 ingredients for our basket.
We got some awesome suggestions, including: avocado, jello, rutabaga, squab, ritz crackers, sriracha, circus peanuts, radishes, mortadella, vegemite, foie gras, frozen waffles, kohlrabi, turkey bacon, orange soda, leg of lamb, lemongrass, cauliflower, kumquat, and watercress.
We then agreed on 4 ingredients.
I “suggested” avocado and sriracha. Plus, I vetoed all processed and grain-based ingredients (I’m high-maintenance, I know that, okay?)
Chris picked mortadella, while David chose cauliflower.
Now, you guys know my obsession for cauliflower, but I swear, I didn’t pressure David into picking it.
Pinky swear, girls scout pledge and cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.
Anyway, sooooo….avocado, sriracha, mortadella and cauliflower. What to do now?

Making Cauliflower Crust Panini

I, for starters, am not a big mortadella eater. Probably because I associate it with Bologna, which I find kind of disgusting.
But real Italian mortadella, is different. It’s a tasty, unique meat that has nothing to do with “baloney”.
It’s studded with pistachios, and black pepper corns and is creamy in texture and delicious.
My friend Francesco claims the legit way to eat mortadella is slice it up and make a sandwich with a fresh and crispy loaf of bread.
We don’t do bread ‘round here (here as in TIY); but we make cauliflower crust that “acts” just like bread. So here I present you with
::drumroll please::
Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini with Avocado Sriracha Mayo.

Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini

This is really more than a sandwich, it’s a myth, a celebrity...seriously, it’s kind of a big deal.
For some reasons I can’t explain, mortadella and cauli crust are just meant to be together.
And with the cheese and the avocado sriracha mayo, this panini achieves stardom status.
Definitely go to the trouble of finding mortadella from Italy. It’s so much better.
Also, I know it’s painful to make cauliflower crust, but it’s worth your time and the energy.
It’s so delicious you won’t believe how healthy it is.
Seriously, there’s like 4 servings of cauliflower in these panini.

Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini

All things considered, I think I can already crown myself as the legitimate winner of this first ever Chopped Cooking Challenge - blogger edition.
But just to be fair, here are Chris’, David’s and Sean’s creations. Do check them out, they’re awesome!

- Chris went as well for cauli crust - I'm starting to think we were separated at birth. His Southwestern Cauliflower Crust Pizza is definitely next on my recipes to try!

- David made some dope Fried Cauliflower with Spicy Avocado Cream, that looks so amazing I wish I could reach through the screen and grab a handful of these.

- Sean's Spicy Mortadella Pasta Salad is arguably one of the best looking pasta salads I've seen in a long time.

Cauliflower Crust Mortadella and Cheese Panini
                                             Print this recipe! 
with Sriracha Avocado Mayo

Makes 4 panini

Cauliflower crust “bread” slices

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (should yield 3 cups of cauliflower rice)
1 free-range organic egg, lightly beaten
½ cup / 1.7 oz / 50 gr shredded mozzarella cheese
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Sriracha Avocado Mayo

½ avocado, peeled and pitted
1 tablespoon Sriracha (make your own Sriracha with this recipe)
4 tablespoons mayo (make your own paleo mayo with this recipe)
Juice of ½ lime
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste


½ lb / 226 gr thinly sliced mortadella
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese


Cauliflower crust “bread” slices

Preheat oven to 450°F (220°C) and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease it with olive oil. Set aside.
In a food processor rice the cauliflower (it should be evenly chopped but not completely pulverized.)
Transfer the cauliflower rice (about 3 cups) to a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 8 minutes, until cooked.
Place the cauliflower rice in a dish cloth (a cheesecloth or a tea towel) and twist it to squeeze out as much moisture as you can (be careful, the cauli rice is thermonuclear hot.)
This is very important. The cauliflower rice needs to be dry, otherwise you’ll end up with a mushy dough, impossible to use as slices of bread (I usually squeeze out over a cup of liquid.)
Transfer the cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, add egg, mozzarella, salt and pepper and mix well.
Spread cauliflower mixture onto a lined baking sheet and shape into 4 squares.
Place in the oven and bake for 16 minutes, until golden.
Remove from the oven and let slices cool 10 minutes before peeling them off the parchment paper (be careful not to break them though!)

Sriracha avocado mayo

In a bowl mash the avocado until smooth. Add mayo, Sriracha, lime juice, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.

Assemble panini

Heat and grease a pan (preferably non-stick) or griddle with oil over medium heat.
Arrange 2 slices of cauliflower bread on a work surface and spread with avocado Sriracha mayo.
Layer the mortadella and cheddar cheese. Spread a bit more of avocado Sriracha mayo and close the panini with the remaining slices of cauliflower bread.
Set them on the preheated pan (or griddle), turn the heat down a notch and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Gently flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Cut the panini in half with a sharp knife and serve while hot and gooey.

Nutrition facts

One panini yields 404 calories, 33 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs and 23 grams of protein.


  1. "My bologna has a first's H-O-M-E-R" Simpsons, anyone? Simpsons? Mike, this is one legit sandwich. I might have to adapt Homer's song to: "My mortadella has a first's M-I-K-E" It was great partnering with you on this challenge...amazing sandwich dude! #WolfpackEats

  2. Such an inventive way to use cauliflower, I'm really impressed by your creativity Mike. Congrats!

  3. Wolf-Chris's idea of a "Chopped Cooking Challenge - blogger edition" is freakin BRILLIANT! So how does the Wolf pack decide the winner - do we get to vote? Do y'all have an entree round and a dessert round? Chopped is one of my fav shows!

    Mike btw, you might need to patent your cauliflower bread - it looks great - double points cos it isn't the real thing!

  4. Just for the record... mortadella was totally not my idea. I wanted bacon. And then someone else said how about mortadella. I wanted ritz crackers... but SOMEBODY totally vetoed that immediately lol.

    I knew you were going to do something super creative with the cauliflower... when I did the cauliflower crust, I was like... Mike is totally going to approve of this hahahaha.

    This looks great man! This is why you are the alpha of the pack... but don't go boasting yoru win yet. You've got some serious competition lol

    1. Being Alpha, I retain the solely right to pick the! OK?

  5. You guys, that's so much fun you did the Chopped challenge. Great initiative!

  6. This is super creative, Mike! I am just in awe from this panini! Love the cauliflower bread idea and love this challenge! Fun!

  7. haha.. so funny. I think the same thing about you two, you have very similar tastes and recipes.. which is why LOVE both of your blogs.

    This recipe sounds amazing, always up for a good sandwich!

    Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats

    1. But, but, but I'm better than Chris...right?
      Just kidding!

  8. oh, THIS IS TOO MUCH FUN! Loved it!

    now, what you don't know is that mortadella causes a little strain in my marriage. Why, you may ask? Because the man I marry insists it's like bologna, so I am very glad you clarified this important issue up front. It is not. I grew up in Brazil enjoying the very best mortadella from the Italian neighborhoods of Sao Paulo and I shed tears when I find a great one. Bologna is cat food. If the cat was really bad.

    Congrats on coming up with THE MOST creative recipe ever, I am sure! I've been intrigued by cauliflower pizza crust, and now you pushed the envelope further and came up with something even better

    awesome job!

    1. Exactly Sally: mortadella and Bologna are so different. they're not even distant relatives! Your husband is talking nonsense ;)
      And you should totally try cauli crust, it's so so so good!

  9. Any suggestions for replacing the cheese in the cauliflower "bread" for dairy intolerance?

    1. Some readers have used vegan cheese and they said it worked great. Sounds like a good option?

    2. Some of the readers have used vegan cheese and succeeded. You could try it as well!

  10. Hi Mike, what a fantastic sandwich, love this creation, you should publish a cauliflower cookbook! Good luck with your contest.

  11. what a great idea! these sound amazing!

  12. now THAT is a good looking sandwich! love the flavour combo.. i think you definitely have stumbled onto something great here. love it!

  13. This is SUPER creative - I've never seen cauliflower as a panini crust before, but, as a gluten-free eater, I'm totally into it. I told Chris it's a close race between his pizza and your panini. When you open your restaurant, I'll have one of each.

  14. This chopped idea is great - love the creative ideas you all came up with! I was lucky enough to live by an Italian deli for several years, and I'm addicted to cold cuts of all kinds! I was pretty hesitant about anything resembling bologna, but ended up loving everything I tried! I really have to try this panini, everything about it sounds awesome!

    1. Bologna is scary indeed but it has really nothing to do with Italian cold cuts such as mortadella or coppa. They're not even distant relatives...

  15. Ohh this challenge sounds like so much fun! I loved each one of your creations ;) This panini looks incredible and I love how you used cauliflower bread. Brilliant!