As cooler weather approaches, we often think of heartier and comforting dishes such as this simple rigatoni pasta with roasted cauliflower. Cauliflower, roasted until tender, golden and caramelized, gets tossed with pasta, cheese, sautéed onions and garlic and then finished with bread crumbs for a wonderful crunch.
One of my husband’s and my favorite Italian restaurants has a pasta dish on their menu that we love called rigatoni with cauliflower. Our problem has always been that the restaurant is located in Ft. Lauderdale in South Florida. For many years we lived in New Hampshire, fifteen hundred miles away, so we could only enjoy the pasta when we flew south to visit our family. Even now, we are more than a hundred miles away…too far to drive for a dish of pasta. Over the years, we have made our own version for this delicious pasta which I believe that you will enjoy as much as we do.
Rigatoni’s name comes from the Italian word “rigato” which means ridged or lined. The ridges make it easier for sauces and cheese to cling to the pasta compared to smooth pasta. Rigatoni pasta is typically larger than tubed pastas such as penne or ziti but you can always use your favorite pasta in this recipe if you wish.
Rigatoni Pasta With Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- 1 head of cauliflower, about 4 or 5 cups of bitesize pieces of cauliflower florets
- olive oil for drizzling, about 1 – 2 Tbsp.
- salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, to taste
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, more or less
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 – 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch squirt of anchovy paste or 3 anchovy filets, mashed (optional but adds lots of flavor)
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 4 c. rigatoni pasta (8 ounces)
- 1/3 c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 c. garlic bread crumbs*
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley, garnish
Place cauliflower florets in a mixing bowl, drizzle with a little oil. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, toss until evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet large enough not to crowd. Place in hot oven and bake, turning halfway through cooking. Roast until lightly caramelized and tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook to al dente, about 10 minutes. Save a cup of the pasta water.
While the pasta is boiling, add the olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium high heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and wine, stir and simmer until wine is slightly reduced. Taste for seasoning.
Add the cooked pasta and toss, adding a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water at a time until finished cooking, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and the cheese and toss well. Top with the garlic bread crumbs and sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
*Garlic Bread Crumbs: Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 garlic clove finely minced and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (or homemade breadcrumbs) and cook until they just start to turn golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste, mix well and remove from the heat.
The restaurant’s version of this dish prepares the cauliflower by sautéing until golden instead of roasting the cauliflower. If you would like to do the same thing, then do the following:
Heat olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the cauliflower for 5 – 7 minutes until it is just beginning to color. Add the garlic and continue sauteing 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper, red pepper and parsley. Toss to combine; set aside. This can be done ahead and reheated slowly when ready to finish the dish. When ready to finish and serve, boil your pasta as above then drain well, reserving about l/4 c. water. Transfer pasta to a large bowl, drizzle with the water, toss with the cheese and the cauliflower. Lightly grease a 2-quart broiler proof casserole dish and add the pasta. Top with bread crumbs and broil about 5 inches from the heat source for a minute until lightly browned.Notes From The Kitchen
If you crave a restaurant meal that you have had in the past but it no longer exists or is too far away, sometimes you are left with no choice but to try and recreate your own version of the dish at home. That is how this rigatoni with roasted cauliflower came about. By adapting a recipe to your own tastes you may end up, like my husband and I, liking it better than the original. This quick and easy homemade version of a well know restaurant’s dish only requires cutting a head of cauliflower into florets, mixing it with some seasonings and roasting it in the oven. A simple olive oil sauce takes mere minutes to prepare while you boil pasta and then everything gets tossed together for a delicious and comforting meal. Serve the pasta with a green salad and a glass of wine and I think you will see why it has become one of our favorite pasta dishes. “Buon Appetito”