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Pasta Shells with Cauliflower

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

The cauliflower can be cooked in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It’s a good idea to save the cooking water, too, as it will add flavor to the dish. Boil the pasta in the reserved cauliflower water when you are ready to complete this recipe.


  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets, then coarsely chopped
  • 8 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 to 8 green onions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 lb. conchigliette or other small pasta shells
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs


Cook the cauliflower
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and cauliflower to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a colander to drain; set aside. Return the water to a boil.

Make the sauce
In a large fry pan over medium-low heat, warm 4 Tbs. of the oil. Add the garlic, green onions, marjoram and red pepper flakes and sauté until the onions are wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, parsley and broth. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the cauliflower is lightly colored and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 12 minutes.

Cook the pasta
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Add as much of the cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 4 Tbs. oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the pasta and serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Pasta, by Julia della Croce (Oxmoor House, 2006).