Well, “cauliflowers,” that is~
I spent this past weekend in Minneapolis visiting some dear friends—one of which was celebrating a birthday by having a little get-together at her house.
Recently I have been on a cauliflower kick and when I was asked to make a pasta dish for the party, I thought of roasted cauliflower with penne pasta. This is a dish very similar to one that Nonna made—she sautéed her cauliflower—but I like the idea of roasting this underused vegetable. Italians like to serve their vegetables with a bit of spicy heat, especially bitter greens, and, though it isn’t green, using red pepper flakes is a great way to add a little “som’in, som’in” to the often bland flavor of cauliflower.
I made this dish several weeks ago using spinach penne and it turned out wonderful. I am a little dubious of my success this past weekend. I think I could have used a little more salt once I added the pasta to the “sauce.” Everyone said they enjoyed it, but I wonder if they’ll invite me to cook again. You win some and, sometimes, well, not so much. The important thing is that we celebrated our time together and what could be better than that?
Here is the recipe for the successful version I made several weeks ago. I hope you are successful, too.
Roasted Cauliflower with Penne Pasta
To roast the cauliflower:
2 heads of cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, maybe a little more
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the core of each cauliflower, cut the florets into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, adding the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Using your hands great toss the florets until they are covered with the oil and seasonings. Spread onto a large baking sheet making sure the florets are not crowded, otherwise they will steam more than they will roast. (For better roasting, I like to place the cut side of the florets down to make direct contact with the sheet.)
Roast for 10 minutes and check to see if the cut sides of the florets are browning. If not, continue to roast (about an additional 5 mintues) until the sides in contact with the sheet are nicely browned. Remove the sheet from the oven, and using tongs, turn the florets over to roast an additional side. Place the sheet back into the oven and continue roasting for another 10-15minutes until side two is nicely browned, and the florets are fork tender. Remove the sheet again and let the florets cool on the sheet while you prepare the “sauce.”
For the “sauce”:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
1 cup low-sodium boxed chicken, or vegetable, broth, divided
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the oil to the hot pan and stir in the onions, coating well with the oil. Stir for one minute, making sure that the onions do not brown, and add ¼ cup of the broth. Stir occasionally, until the broth is almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add another ¼ cup of the broth and continue stirring until the liquid has almost evaporated a second time. Repeat this step with the next ¼ cup of broth. When the third batch of broth is almost evaporated, stir in the salt, pepper, and remaining ¼ cup of broth. Still until well combined, remove from the heat, and set aside. This is the “sauce.”
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to boil. Once boiling, add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 pound of penne pasta. Cook the pasta as directed on the box.
While the pasta cooks, grate ¾ cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus an additional ¼ cup for garnish, and chop ¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley. Set both aside for assembly.
Two or three minutes before the pasta is done, place the pan with the onion mixture back over low heat until it starts to simmer. When the pasta is al dente—tender but still has a bite, drain and add it to the simmering onions. Stir until well combined. Taste and adjust the salt and black pepper here (this is where I fell short in Minneapolis). Stir the roasted cauliflower and all of the dripping from the sheet into the sauced pasta. Again, taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cheese, parsley, and drizzle with another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Plate and serve warm, garnishing with additional cheese.
**If you really want to turn up the heat, you can serve this with pepper sauce (peppers in white vinegar) on the side. Let people add dashes of the pepper sauce to their personal level of endurance.
Hope this turns out well.