Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

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

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

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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Comments

  • DK

    I am skipping the anchovies to make it vegetarian!

    You may want to double up on the Parmesan if you do that. ~Elise

  • Martalee

    I have a can of sardines I’ve been wanting to use. Any idea if they would work here in place of the anchovies?

    No, you cannot replace anchovies with sardines. Not even close. ~Elise

  • Susan @ SGCC

    I slip anchovies in all kinds of dishes for that same reason. Even the die hard anchovy haters can’t tell.

    I make a pasta dish almost identical to this except without the tomatoes. I use white wine or broth instead. I’ll have to give the tomatoes a try next time. It looks wonderful!

  • Madhuram

    Hi Elise, it’s my first time here. Roasted cauliflower and cauliflower in general is my favorite too. Being an Indian, I usually add curry powder while roasting it. This dish looks very simple to make. I too am a vegetarian, so will increase the quantity of Parmesan cheese.

    Actually cauliflower and broccoli are my son’s favorite vegetables. I think when parents show dislike for certain foods in front of their kids, they also pick it up easily.

  • Rivka

    Made something just like this a week or so back, but used broccoli instead of cauli. Totally agree that flavors only improve as they continue to get acquainted.

  • Susan

    This recipe sounds dee-vine! Have you seen or tried Jamie Oliver’s recipe for whole cauliflower cooked in a lovely tomato sauce (with onions, garlic, anchovies and kalamatas!) ~ yumm.

  • Hannah

    Ooh that looks delicious. Have you tried cauliflower, pasta and blue cheese? That’s another good combination.

    Haven’t tried that combination yet, thanks for the idea! ~Elise

  • Amy

    Miso has a good “umami” flavor that can help compensate for the lack of anchovies. White or red miso would be my choices for this recipe. Another substitute would be to add a tiny bit of soy sauce at the end of cooking the onions, and then cook until the pan is dry again. Third idea: salt cured black olives. Chop finely or puree to keep the flavor dispersed throughout the dish like melted anchovies would be.

  • Linda

    Have you ever made and/or eaten cauliflower pureed? Heaven.

    Yes, in our cauliflower purée we add a bit of sour cream and butter. Lovely. ~Elise

  • Kristin

    Oh, it’s not just kids! I’m thirty-four and cannot bring myself to try anchovies. The claim, “it’s just salty and flavor-ful, not fishy” requires such a supension of disbelief on my part when I look at those silvery little fish bodies that I just can’t bring myself to do it! But I will. I’m making it a resolution. How can I not when I keep hearing how delicious they are? :) ~K

  • Meg

    We had this for dinner tonight, Elise. Delicioso! You’re right about wanting to eat the whole bowl. I had to put the extras away immediately, or we would have consumed it all in one sitting. Thanks for a great dinner!

  • Jenn R

    I am not a lover of anchovies OR cauliflower, but I made this last night for my husband and I and we both gobbled it up. He is from Rome and found this dish to be very authentically Italian (we used Pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan for a Roman touch). For all of you anchovy-phobes, I can testify that you will not taste them and they just completely dissolve into the dish. Try it!

  • Jessica

    Made this last night, it was delicious! Used a whole can of anchovies, my boyfriend loved it, too. Used frozen cauliflower in place of fresh ($4 a head!)

  • E. Peevie

    Just made this. Can’t stop eating it.

    Where does the strong taste of anchovies go? I’m positive they add flavor, but the too-strong anchovyness is not there.

    I bought anchovies for the first time ever for this recipe. Elise, you are a goddess.

  • sK

    Do you think I could use anchovy paste? What’s the difference? I mean, besides the obvious, of course. I just have never bought either. Sounds delicious, tho!

    Anchovy paste works fine. I’ve used it on other dishes. ~Elise

  • RD

    I made this last night for dinner. Being a fan of pasta puttanesca I knew I would like this dish. And it is a great way to use cauliflower which we don’t eat much around here. It is amazing how a little bit of anchovies can add so much depth to the flavor of a dish yet people don’t even know you used anchovies. I followed the recipe pretty close but used anchovy paste in a tube that we already had in the fridge and dry plain bread crumbs we had in the pantry. I’ll definitely make it again.

  • Marion Olson

    My husband and I are both total fans of cauliflower, so we knew this was going to be a good one. I used a whole can of fire-roasted tomatoes, and personally think there was a bit too much tomato in the mix, but of course we ate nearly the whole thing!

    This seems to be a variant of an old favorite – pasta with broccoli and anchovies – no tomatoes but plenty of olive oil and the anchovies smushed into the olive oil/onion mixture. Lots of Parmesan and it’s another fantastic use for cruciferous veggies.

    I love anchovies, but my husband has had to be carefully exposed to them – at least with these recipes there are no little bony things to find.

  • anya

    I made it and IT WAS FABULOUS! My boyfriend thought it was the best dish I’ve ever made. We ate it practically every meal till it was gone!

  • araz

    I am eating it for breakfast as I type this. I made it for dinner last night, and I dreamed about it. It was my first time buying & using anchovies, and it’s true that they melt away, leaving no fishy taste. Just good flavor. Thank you for another lovely recipe!

  • Christen

    I made this for dinner last night, and it was very tasty! I had never cooked with anchovies before, and I was a little dubious when I opened the tin of slimy little fish, but the whole dish did not taste at all fishy–rather, it had the wonderful savoriness that Elise described. In my very humble opinion, I thought the tomatoes overwhelmed the dish a little. Perhaps next time I’ll modify the recipe, using less tomatoes. I also love the idea of adding prosciutto to this! Yum!

  • Ana

    I just tried this recipe today and am eating it right now and can I say! WOW! Amazing! Especially since I did not exactly follow the recipe requirements, but the ingredients just make it impossible not to work. It is the perfect dish for a poor busy student in a foreign country like me because it takes very little time and easy-to-find ingredients. Plus, the meal lasts for days. I cannot wait to try it again tomorrow. THANKS FOR THIS!!!

  • Samantha

    Just amazing! I was even able to feed it to people who would normally turn their nose up to the thought of eating anchovies! I made sure I told them what they were eating after! :)

  • Irma

    I cooked this pasta this evening. So good! I used whole wheat pasta (“fusilli”). Yum! :)
    Thanks for recipe!
    Great blog!
    best regards from Italy
    Irma

  • Laurel

    I have wanted to make this since you posted it and finally did tonight. It was just wonderful!! I made it without pasta and bread crumbs because I’m not eating bread right now. It was amazing. I will be making this again soon. Can’t wait to try it with nuts and raisins. I am just loving using anchovies in cooking (salads, etc) and want to try some other cauliflower recipes with anchovies. Thanks for the awesome recipe, it’s a keeper!

  • sara

    We made an adaptation of this tonight, using wine and chicken broth to replace the tomatoes since we weren’t in the mood for a tomatoey pasta. It turned out wonderfully, and I am now (at least in a limited sense) an anchovy convert!
    http://theweekendgourmande.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/kitchen-firsts-cauliflower-pasta-with-anchovies/

    Wow, great post! Thank you for encouraging people to not fear the anchovy. So glad you liked it! ~Elise

  • Crystal

    I’m crazy for anchovies. I’ve found a recipe for Anchovy Carbonara that I can’t wait to try.

  • Janice

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. I couldn’t quite imagine how the combination of anchovies, cauliflower and breadcrumbs would work but they just do! Thanks for sharing.

  • Asa

    I eat anchovies by themselves. Give me all the anchovies tbh…

  • Sandy S

    Life has been a little crazy lately, but your wonderful 2016 recipes have been so helpful for keeping our diets healthy and free of the ‘quick stuff’ that can weigh one down. Will be trying a GF version of this recipe over the week-end. It sounds so good! Love knowing that it is good for left-overs, too. Many thanks Elise for all that you do to help us easily be mindful of what we choose eat.

  • Bella B

    Oh my gosh this looks so yummy, I love cauliflower it my favourite vegetable

  • heidi defaut

    I love anchovies. they are very common in italian cooking, especially in areas close to the sea.like a good puttanesa.yum!!!!

  • 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 :-)

    • Elise

      Sounds like a great idea Beverly, let us know how it turns out for you!

      • Beverly

        We enjoyed this again tonight (made it yesterday and it was even better tonight) with chicken instead of the pasta; it made a delicious healthy low carb meal. Yes no fishy taste- just a very tasty combination of flavors

  • 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!

    • Elise

      Hi Stephanie, sure, that will work, though from what I’ve heard anchovy paste doesn’t taste nearly as good as the whole anchovies.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!