Way back when I started this blog, I posted recipes every week in a series called What’s Cooking Wednesday.
I started out wanting to record the recipes I make all the time, many of which come from my family — my grandmother’s meatballs and Italian wedding soup, my mom’s chocolate cake and apple pie, and even our neighbor Louise’s banana cake. I expanded into including some of P’s mom’s recipes, true Calabrian treasures, like her chicory and cannellini beans and spicy sausage with fava beans.
But a true food blogger I was never going to be since I’m not really into trying all kinds of recipes with this sauce or that special ingredient (which is likely impossible for me to find in rural southern Italy anyway). Probably 90% of the recipes on this site are ones I make with exceptional regularity when the ingredients are in-season. Yes, some desserts can get a bit complicated in preparation and have longer ingredient lists, but most of my go-to, everyday recipes stick to the concepts of simple and fresh.
Along with many other aspects of my life over the past eight and a half years, cooking has become an exercise in simplicity.
Through adapting to seasonal eating and learning the ins and outs of all the locally available ingredients, I have also developed a feel for what goes together as well as what both P and I will like. While we tend to stick to the basics, I’m never bored with our meals since there is such a wide array of fresh produce around no matter the season — plus I’ve noticed that just about the time I start craving artichokes, they seem to magically come into season. Or I’ve planned ahead and frozen plenty anyway.
I still get in some experimenting, albeit within stricter confines that I would have had in the United States, and that is what happened this past fall with cauliflower.
Before moving here, I had only ever eaten cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce. I liked it, of course; smother anything in cheese sauce and chances are good that I’ll like it. But I knew that dish wasn’t going to fly here, and quite honestly I didn’t really want to eat it anyway. I’ve made cavolfiori al forno, which is delicious, but I was hoping for a main dish, i.e., with pasta.
So I thought about cauliflower in terms of its kissing cousin, broccoli, and treated it in a similar manner. P had never had cauliflower with pasta (his mom doesn’t like vegetables with pasta, so she doesn’t make them that way), but he was willing to give it a go. This dish has been a staple in our house all winter, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
Pasta with cauliflower is so fast and easy to make, and you can still taste every single ingredient in the final product. Simple, fresh, delicious. Perfect.
Pasta with Cauliflower
Pasta con cavolfiori
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 small cloves garlic, each cut in half
- Peperoncino to taste
- Salted water
- Head of cauliflower
- Penne or other short pasta
- Bread crumbs & parmigiano (optional)
1. Clean cauliflower and cut into individual florets. A head of cauliflower can be quite big, so portion it out for as many people as will be eating. You can parboil all of it and save some for later or even freeze the rest once it’s cooled. Alternately, simply clean a part of it and save the rest for another day (making sure to keep as much of the bottom part of the head on as possible). Parboil florets in boiling salted water until al dente.
2. Remove cauliflower from water with slotted spoon and set aside. Taste the water at this point to make sure it’s salty enough for the pasta — you want it to taste roughly like sea/ocean water. Bring it back to a boil and add pasta.
3. In the meantime, heat olive oil in pan and saute garlic and peperoncino over medium heat, but don’t let either brown. Note if you’re making a lot of cauliflower, you should adjust measurements for olive oil and garlic.
4. Add cauliflower to pan and toss well. Add a large ladle-full of the pasta water as well and let cauliflower soak in the flavors for several minutes. If the mixture is getting dry, add some more pasta water. Taste cauliflower and if pasta isn’t done yet, turn off heat and cover when cauliflower is to your desired taste.
5. As an optional step, at this point you can toast some bread crumbs in a pan. As you can see from the photos, I used seasoned bread crumbs, which came with parsley and garlic salt in them.
6. When the pasta is ready, make sure the pan with the cauliflower is on low heat and then add pasta and toss well.
7. If you are adding toasted breadcrumbs, do so just before serving. Serve also with the option of shaved parmigiano.
What’s your favorite cauliflower dish?