Heads up: Addictive Cauliflower Pasta

Cauliflower’s been spectacular this past month here in southeast Pennsylvania. The co-op included big heads in our last couple-three shareboxes of the spring/summer season (which ended with October) – and it was the centerpiece of last week’s inaugural fall-season box.

This gorgeously orange “cheddar” variety roasts up nutty and sweet.

Twice now, I’ve made crispy cauliflower, roasting half a head at high heat with a sprinkle of olive oil, salt, and Garam Masala (and twice now, I’ve made a quick Vitamix soup from the leftovers). But three times already, I’ve noodled around with roasted cauliflower tossed with pasta.

Done noodling, I’m ready to declare this dish a fall staple.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower
Winner, winner, meatless dinner.

Simple? 45 minutes, start-to-finish, and nearly all of that is roasting time. Hearty? Yep – and without meat. Warming? It was perfect Monday night, when our region was expected to see its first snowflakes of the season. Binge-worthy? You decide.

Pasta fixings
Humble, warming, filling, addicting.
Pasta with roasted cauliflower, onions, and peppers

Yields 4-5 side servings or 3 large, meal-size portions.

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, rinsed and cut into florets
  • 1/2 medium-large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 hot red pepper, seeded and chopped (I used one of the last Cajun Belles gleaned from my garden, but you could easily go hotter with a cayenne or similar)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parm), plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 lb dried or fresh pasta (I used Perciatelli, but I actually liked it even better with a shorter-form noodle – say, Cavatelli)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400º.

1. Put the cauliflower, onion, pepper, and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and toss to coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the tops of the florets are slightly browned and the onions are good and soft.

Here they are after a half hour. I actually stuck the pan back in for another 10 minutes.

2. While the pan’s in the oven, bring a big pot of salted water to a roiling boil. Cook the pasta to al dente.

3. While the pasta’s cooking, whisk the egg together in a small bowl with the third-cup of cheese.

4. Working quickly, drain the pasta, and while it’s still quite hot, put it into a large bowl (pro tip: avoid stainless-steel bowls here unless you have heat-resistant fingertips). Toss with the egg-cheese mixture until the noodles are well coated and the cheese begins to melt. Now add the roasted vegetables. Toss again, and serve immediately with a final dusting of the grated cheese.

What to drink?

I love Soave with fall flavors.

I know, I know. I’m in a bit of a Venetian rut. So what? Whites from the Veneto are so terrific with the nutty and sweet fall flavors of roasted or grilled vegetables – as well as with roasted or grilled fish. The 2012 Soave Classico from Cantina del Castello is surprisingly rich, beautifully concentrated, and downright clean. If you can’t find Castello locally, ask your wine merchant for a small-producer Soave from a recent vintage. There’s a lot of industrial-made plonk that comes out of the region, and it’s worth your while to find an artisan who’s making the honest, elegant wine deserving of the name.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. dianemenke says:

    Check out clerk at Whole Foods told me he roasts till browned cauliflower florets after he dusts them with chopped almonds, oil, garlic, and Old Bay. Makes them sort of ‘ala Buffalo Wing” flavor. Nice with beer and the game and something diff for the vegetarians visiting.

    I bet a ranch dressing on the side would not be ignored.


    1. Susan says:

      That sounds fantastic, Diane. Maybe I’ll fire that up while I watch Ball State vs NIU tonight . . .

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