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Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Garlic Bread Crumbs

This dish has the hallmarks of any memorable pasta dish: a pleasing variety of textures and vivid, complementary flavors. Roasting cauliflower caramelizes it and brings out its sweetness. Seek out true Parmigiano-Reggiano for this recipe; its sweet, mellow flavor is unrivaled.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices artisan-style bread, each about 1/2 inch thick 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled  
  • 2 cauliflower heads, about 2 lb. total 
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste 
  • 3/4 lb. whole-wheat penne 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 3 Tbs. drained capers 
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes 
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F.

Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and dry, about 30 minutes. Rub one side of each slice with one of the garlic cloves. Let cool, then tear the bread into chunks. Put in a food processor and process until coarse crumbs form. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

Cut the cauliflower heads into quarters. Discard the leaves and cores and cut into slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Mince the remaining garlic clove. Put the cauliflower in a large baking pan and gently toss with the olive oil, the 1/2 tsp. salt and the minced garlic. Roast, stirring after 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned on the edges and tender when pierced, about 20 minutes total.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 12 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the roasted cauliflower, the lemon juice, parsley, capers, red pepper flakes and reserved cooking water and stir to combine. Stir in the bread crumbs and cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well, by Charity Ferreira (Oxmoor House, 2008).