One of my very best friends used to work at a pizzeria in Trenton, New Jersey. When I served him this pasta, he said it reminded him of the family meals served to the employees. “It’s a simple vegetable pasta, the kind of thing that we served to each other,” he said.
My kids love it. It’s been part of our weeknight rotation whenever we find cauliflower at the farmer’s market. This pasta is versatile and plays well with long pasta like spaghetti or tagliatelle, or short pasta like penne or gemelli, so we let the kids choose and fetch it themselves, to give them the feeling of being in control of something, a feeling that they get so rarely.
Letting the onions cook a little longer and caramelize adds to the sweetness of this dish, which is one of the best things about it. Don’t omit the breadcrumbs- they provide great texture that gives the dish a little something extra, for when you have guests.
The day after, I am always looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch with copious amounts of Hoppin Hot Sauce.
In fact, Cauliflower Pasta is my Desert Island Lunch. What’s that? I made a reel to explain. Check it out: Desert Island Lunch.
Cut cauliflower in 1/2. Remove leaves and cut out core and reserve. Cut cauliflower into small bite-size florets, reserving stalks. Chop core, leaves, and stalks.
Cauliflower Pasta Ingredients: 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 lbs.) 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium white onion, cut into small dice 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled Maldon or other flaky sea salt 6 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces Kosher salt 1 lb. pasta (see instructions} 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving 1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs, sautéed in 1 tbs. olive oil until golden brown Hoppin Hot Sauce (to taste)
1. Combine oil, onion, garlic, and cauliflower core, leaves, and stalks in large pot, season with sea salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until leaves are just beginning to wilt, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until leaves are just tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
2. Add cauliflower florets, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to gentle simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is almost falling apart, 22 to 25 minutes. Add butter, stirring gently until it melts; season well with sea salt. Remove from heat. (You can stop here, and continue with the rest when you are ready to eat the pasta.)
3. Bring 6 quarts water to boil in large pot and add 3 tbs. kosher salt. Drop in pasta and cook until just al dente
4. Drain pasta, Add pasta to cauliflower sauce. Toss over medium heat until pasta is well coated (add more pasta water to thin sauce). Stir in cheese.
5. Transfer pasta to serving bowl, sprinkle with bread crumbs,, and serve with additional grated cheese. 6. Serve with plenty Hoppin Hot Sauce on the side because, let's be real, you are going to want that.