Feb 13 2011

Pasta al Cavolfiore

Published by Christine at 12:01 am under Pasta,Vegetarian

Cauliflower, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love cauliflower in soups, in gratins, steamed with a little bit of butter and salt, roasted in the oven until caramelized (maybe my favorite), sautéed in a pan with or without other vegetables until nice and brown, in soufflés, in purées (alone or with potatoes), in salads, just lightly blanched and served with a dip, and I’m probably forgetting a few things. My point is that this is probably one of the most versatile and de-li-cious vegetables ever, and if it’s not a regular presence at your dinner table, you are missing out on something truly special.

In my still-under-renovation kitchen, I just made my own version of pasta al cavolfiore (pasta with cauliflower), which is one of the easiest, fastest and tastiest weeknight dinners that can be made; honestly, there still isn’t much I can do in my kitchen these days, and I managed this without any difficulty at all. A few ingredients (shallots, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, a few shavings of parmesan) are all that’s added to the pasta (any kind) and cauliflower, for a dinner that goes from stove top to table in under 30 mn. That night, all I had was a bag of frozen cauliflower and garlic powder in lieu of fresh: it works too. The cauliflower is first sautéed in some olive oil with aromatics until golden brown before being mixed with breadcrumbs. I use panko, which I’ve blogged about here and here. These add crunchy, contrasting texture to the pasta and vegetable combination. The result is simple yet stunning.

Pasta al Cavolfiore

1lb pasta (I used rigatoni, but spaghetti would work too)
1 head cauliflower (or 1 bag frozen)
1 medium-sized shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
fresh parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the cauliflower: if fresh, cut in florets and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes (it should still be firm). If frozen, microwave for 3 minutes. Roughly chop your prepared cauliflower, like this:


The cauliflower should be in large enough pieces that it will not readily fall apart.


Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan. Over medium heat, gently sauté the cauliflower pieces (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste) and the shallot, until golden brown, about 10 mn, stirring occasionally.


Hard to resist eating it *right now*.


Add chopped garlic and cook for 1 mn more. Add panko, an additional 1 Tbsp olive oil, and mix well. Cook until the breadcrumbs take on a golden color, another 5mn.


Panko magic


While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions. Toss the cooked and drained pasta with the cauliflower mixture and the chopped parsley. Add some shaved or grated parmesan on top, and serve. A green salad on the side would be perfect!


Presto Pasta!


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