Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

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Move over kale, cauliflower is now the “it girl” these days. There are just so many wonderful dishes you can make with it! This simple pasta with cauliflower, tomato, and Parmesan is a great example. I’ve adapted the recipe from a Sicilian recipe by Vincent Schiavelli that appeared years ago in Saveur.

It’s outrageously good; I’ve been eating the leftovers for days, which just seem to get better as the flavors have more time to meld.

The secret ingredient?

Pasta Cauliflower Tomato Parmesan

Anchovies.

Okay, so I’m weird. I’m one of those people to whom you can say “cauliflower” and “anchovies” and I’ll start salivating. I’ll take cauliflower any which way (though IMHO roasted is best) and anchovies?

Well anchovies are one childhood prejudice (“hold the anchovies!”) I’ve happily outgrown. (Thankfully, along with my childhood anti-opera and country music sentiments, too. What is it with kids not liking things before they’ve ever tried them?)

No, the anchovies will not make this dish taste like fish. They will however give it an indescribable savoriness (umami) that will make you want to eat the whole bowl.

Updated with new photos from the recipe archive. First published Nov, 2009.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Variations to this recipe include adding some toasted pinenuts or walnuts, a few raisins, and or some saffron.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided 2 and 4 Tbsp
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp anchovies packed in oil, minced (about 6 anchovies)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, core removed and discarded, florets coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
  • 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped, or diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

* To make breadcrumbs, chop up about 3 slices of day old bread. Pulse in blender or food processor until you have small crumbs.

Method

1 Toast breadcrumbs: Toast crumbs in a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat until lightly browned. Remove crumbs from skillet and set aside.

2 Sauté onions with garlic and anchovies: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and anchovies.

Crush the anchovies with the back of a spoon so that they smear well over the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.

While you are cooking the onions, put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water) for the pasta on the stove to boil.

pasta-cauliflower-method-1

3 Sauté cauliflower florets: Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stir infrequently, allowing the cauliflower edges to brown. Cook until the cauliflower florets are lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes to the pan, and salt and pepper to taste.

pasta-cauliflower-method-2

4 Add tomato paste, tomatoes, onion mixture: Dissolve tomato paste in 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to low. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and anchovies, stir to combine well.

Cook, uncovered, on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender.

pasta-cauliflower-method-3 pasta-cauliflower-method-4

5 Cook pasta, add to cauliflower mixture: Cook the pasta, uncovered, in salted boiling water until just al dente, according to the pasta package's cooking directions. Drain the pasta from the cooking water and add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower mixture.

Stir in about half of the parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan (leave the rest for garnish on top).

Makes great leftovers as the flavors have more time to blend.

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Links:

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

Pasta with cauliflower, walnuts, and feta from Deb of Smitten Kitchen

Spinach fettucine with cauliflower and bacon from Blue Kitchen

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Showing 4 of 39 Comments

  • Elise L

    Made this a couple of weeks ago and my kids (2 & 5) LOVED it. Said it was the best pasta they had ever had. The adults liked it too, so a winner all round. There were no leftovers. Has now been added to my list of regular weekday meals. But next time I will have to make of it so I can enjoy some leftovers. Thank you Elise!

  • Torrey

    Wow, this one is good! Awesome combination of flavors – best thing I’ve ever done with a cauliflower. Used fresh tomatoes and extra Parmesan.

  • Ann

    I just made this recipe tonight (with some slight adjustments to accommodate my diet), and it was probably one of the best recipes I’ve ever made from this site. I really don’t think I could have done anything to improve up on it, It was perfect. The umami of the anchovies and the freshness of the parsley were the starts of the show.

    To reduce calories and sodium, I adjusted as follows: 1) substituted farro for the pasta. 2) roasted the cauliflower instead of sauteeing. 3) used two overly ripe vine tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. 4) used wheat panko for the breadcrumbs. 4) reduced the amount of olive oil overall.

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I can’t wait to eat leftovers tomorrow!

  • Stephanie

    I don’t believe I have any anchovies at home on hand, but I do have anchovy paste that I had previously purchased for a Ragu recipe – you think the paste would work as an anchovy ‘substitute’? Some sites seem to claim 2 filets = 1/2 tsp of paste. So it might work! I’ll let you know if I brave the experiment. Thanks!

  • Beverly

    Sounds temptingly tasty…I’ll leave out the white pasta, substituting strips of chicken cut to the same size as the pasta and make this dish a complete [ low carb]meal :-)

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