This recipe is so simple, it doesn’t seem like it would be that flavorful, but magic happens once you combine the roasted cauliflower with the olive oil that you’ll infuse with lemon, garlic and red pepper. Toss that all with the cooked pasta, and top with breadcrumbs and a sprinkling of parmesan or pecorino romano and prepare to be amazed at the magical dish before you.
I made this for a dear friend who is recovering from surgery (and she’s doing quite well, thankfully!), and I went to visit her over the weekend and brought this for us to nibble on. We laid around and watched Wonder Woman (<– surprisingly emotional!) and filled ourselves with this yummy pasta. And fried chicken and mashed potatoes that her husband brought home. It was a comforting afternoon.
I highly recommend using a full fat, full flavored freshly grated cheese like I did here with the grana padano. Alternatively, you can use freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano. We are mixing some cheese into the cooked pasta and roasted cauliflower, and then topping the pasta with some additional cheese mixed in with the breadcrumbs before we toss it in for a little bake. The cheese is so flavorful so we don’t need to load up on it. A little goes a long way!
This reheats beautifully; we tossed it in my friend’s oven at 300 for about 20 minutes to warm (it was at room temperature when I brought it over). I would reheat for 45 minutes if you are reheating straight from the fridge (leave out on counter for 10 minutes prior to reheating to remove the chill).
pasta shells with roasted cauliflower.
adapted from Marcella Hazan via NYT Cooking.
8 ounces small pasta shells (or other short pasta such as penne)
1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
1/3 cup olive oil, divided plus one teaspoon
zest of 1/2 lemon plus 1 tablespoon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2-3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano or parmesan, reserving about 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray add the cauliflower florets. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir/mix well to ensure all cauliflower is coated with oil. Place in oven and roast for 15-18 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove when lightly golden brown and a fork can pierce through the stem of the floret. Set aside.
While the cauliflower is rooting, heat a large pot of water to a boil and season with a bit of salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
While the pasta is cooking and the cauliflower is roasting, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and once shimmering but not smoking, add the diced onion and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is softened and slightly shimmering and the garlic is fragrant. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flak (about 1/4 teaspoon) and the zest and juice of half a lemon and stir, reducing the heat to medium-low. Add this seasoned onion and garlic mixture to the pasta along with the roasted cauliflower, 1/2 cup grana padano and mix gently to combine. Taste, and add additional sea salt and/or pepper if needed. Transfer mixture to a 2 quart baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine the last remaining teaspoon of olive oil, breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have toasted and cheese has slightly melted. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Serves 4-6. *Please use organic ingredients wherever possible*