Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cauliflower Penne Puttanesca

Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite foods. Left to my own devices, I can eat an entire head of roasted cauliflower all by myself, particularly if it's dijon-roasted cauliflower, that beautiful caramelization a siren song for my tastebuds. Quite some time ago I made much-loved roasted cauliflower pasta, so when I saw this recipe in the most recent issue of Real Simple magazine it seemed like the perfect way to use the head of broccoli romanesco (Roman cauliflower) I picked up at the farmer's market, with the added bonus of the rest of the ingredients being things I already had at home. Since puttanesca sauce is so simple, this is a place to splurge a bit on the tomatoes (get San Marzano if you can find them) to maximize flavor. To make the cauliflower shine, cut the florets so they each have one flat side, placing the florets cut-side down in the skillet and allowing them to cook undisturbed for a few minutes initially to ensure a delicious crust on the cauliflower. With subtle hints of heat from the red pepper and pops of pickled capers, this hearty bowl of pasta is an irresistably hearty vegetarian dinner, made even more vibrant with a generous dusting of fresh parsley and salty Parmesan cheese. If you're looking for a new vegetarian pasta for your winter dinner repertoire, look no further than this simple, satisfying dish.

Cauliflower Penne Puttanesca
adapted from Real Simple, February 2012
serves 4

3/4 pound whole wheat penne or other short pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head cauliflower or broccoli romanesco (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into small florets
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)

1. Cook the past according to the package directions. Drain and return to pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice, olives, capers, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon until the cauliflower is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.

3. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve topped with the parsley and Parmesan.

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