Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cauliflower Campanelle

This dish is so simple, you might dismiss it right away as "boring" or "blah." But I am here to tell you, you'd really be missing out on something great if you didn't give it a shot! Even my self-proclaimed cauliflower-disliking husband decided that this recipe was a keeper, which is really saying something!

This Cauliflower Campanelle (renamed by myself because campanelle is the particular cut of pasta I used for this) comes together in less than thirty minutes, requires mostly ingredients that you usually have on hand anyway, and turns out deliciously addictive. Not bad, right?

For ease of preparation, you cook the cauliflower in a huge pot of boiling water, then drain it and throw your uncooked pasta into the same pot to be cooked. Alongside, you heat up another skillet and saute the cauliflower until it starts to brown. Some aromatic ingredients are added to the mix (garlic, basil, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper, Parmesan cheese) and everything is tossed with some extra pasta water to loosen the sauce. As a result of your minimal efforts, you are rewarded with the kind of dish you just want to keep eating long after you've technically had enough. The seasonings are just right, and the cauliflower is so nutty and tender and yummy. Next time cauliflower goes on sale, I know what I'm going to be doing with it!

Cauliflower Campanelle with Red Pepper, Basil, and Parmesan
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 8-10 servings

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1 pound campanelle pasta (or any other small shape)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Fill a large pot 3/4-full with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower florets away from the core and add them to the boiling water. Cook until fork-tender, about 5-7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and drain in a colander.

2. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until it is al dente, 10-12 minutes. While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until it begins to shimmer but is not smoking. Add the cauliflower and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, break the florets into bite-size pieces, roughly the same size as the pasta. Cook, stirring, just until the florets begin to brown, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 1-2 minutes. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add the pasta, cauliflower, and garlic to the pasta pot and toss, using tongs or two large spoons. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, the basil, the salt, and the pepper and toss. Add the cheese and toss again. If the pasta doesn't look saucy enough, spoon in a little of the reserved pasta water, toss one last time, and serve immediately.

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