When there’s a chill in the air I tend to crave hearty meals and pasta automatically comes to mind. One of my favorite pasta dishes is Penne with Cauliflower Ragu. I love this pasta dish because it is a simple preparation with very few ingredients (only six!). The “sauce” essentially is a delicious cooked down mixture of cauliflower, garlic, shallot and olive oil. How can that not be amazing?
Cauliflower is only just coming into its own as people explore new ways to prepare this cruciferous vegetable. It’s not uncommon to find Cauliflower Mash on a menu or to run into riced cauliflower at your local market. It’s even used to make pizza “dough”.
It’s super versatile, and it’s a surprisingly delicious addition to pasta. In fact, it’s so good, I think you will find that this pasta dish becomes a staple in your house — as it has in mine. It’s frequently on the menu – especially as the cold weather sets in and all I want to do is make a simple pasta dinner.
Penne with Cauliflower Ragu
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of red pepper
1 cup of reserved pasta water
1 pound of penne pasta (whole wheat, brown rice, whatever works with your diet)
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the base of a heavy pan over medium heat. Let the oil come to temperature and add the garlic and shallots. Cook until soft (7-10 minutes) and then add the cauliflower, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes. I like to get some good color on the cauliflower at this point. Then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower softens.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water an add to the cauliflower mixture (this helps to create the ragu). Combine the pasta and cauliflower mixture — along with another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (more olive oil helps bring it together but is not necessary). Top with grated parmiggiano cheese. Serve immediately.