Friday, November 8, 2013

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic, and Almonds

Last week I spent a couple of days in New York City.  Usually when we are there it is near Christmas or in the summer, but this year it was nice to go in the fall.  I particularly enjoyed spending the morning at the Union Square Greenmarket where I purchased several heads of beautiful and colorful cauliflower.  At the market here at home, I rarely see locally grown cauliflower much less cauliflower in shades of green, orange, and purple.  It was a treat. It was also a little difficult to pack in my carry-on for the plane, but I made it work.  I also purchased some artisanal Vesuvio pasta from Eataly, a market filled with Italian foods and restaurants.  Vesuvio pasta is a spiral shaped pasta resembling a shell or the volcano for which it is named. 

Of course, bringing produce and pasta back from New York makes you want to do something special with it, so I threw together this tasty dish using an adaptation of a recipe from Cooks IllustratedThe cauliflower gets roasted in a scorching hot oven until it is well browned.  Then it gets mixed with the pasta and a sauce made of roasted garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.  A bit of freshly grated cheese helps hold everything together and create a sauce that clings nicely to the pasta.  The sprinkling of almonds on top adds a nice crunch.  

I haven't changed this pasta recipe much, but I have decreased the amount of pasta to make it healthier and lighter and to serve two people rather than four.  I also decreased the amount of olive oil and cheese, but the overall dish is just as good or better than it was when I made it with the full amounts.  You can also make this with broccoli or other roasted veggies, and you can substitute other types of nuts depending on what you have on hand.  

A word of warning about the lemon juice...the original recipe calls for 2-3 tablespoons.  We find that 1 1/2-2 tablespoons is sufficient to give it nice lemony flavor without being overpowering.  Add some juice, taste test, and adjust as needed for your own personal tastes.  

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic, and Almonds- serves 2-3

Don't be put off by the amount of garlic in this recipe.  It mellows nicely when roasted and makes a great sauce.  Vesuvio pasta is not available in most markets so use a short pasta such as fusilli or orrechiette instead.    

2 heads garlic, top quarter of each head cut off and discarded
3 Tbsp plus 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil or canola cooking spray
1 head cauliflower, florets cut in bite size pieces, leaves and stems discarded
1/2 pound short molded pasta
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated plus more for grating on top
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place each prepared head of garlic in the center of a square of aluminum foil and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over each.  Fold the foil upwards to create a sealed packet, and place the packets in the center of a large baking sheet to roast for 20 minutes.  

Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Place the prepared cauliflower florets around the foil packets on the baking sheet.  Spray the cauliflower with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Continue to roast the cauliflower and garlic for an additional 20-25 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the cauliflower is well browned and tender when pierced with a fork.  

Remove the garlic packets from the oven and carefully open the packets to help them cool quickly.  Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a small bowl.  Mash the garlic with a fork until it forms a paste.  Add the red pepper flakes, a sprinkling of salt, and the lemon juice to the garlic and stir.  Slowly stir in the 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Set the sauce aside.  

In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot.  

Mix the pasta and roasted cauliflower.  Add the garlic sauce, pasta cooking liquid, and 1/2 cup cheese.  Stir gently to combine and distribute ingredients.  Serve pasta in a shallow bowl sprinkled with toasted almonds and additional grated cheese.  

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