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Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite fall and winter pantry staples. Not only is it a good palette for spices, there’s at least a 50 percent chance my kids will eat it, making it a top-performing vegetable in our house.
I usually roast the big florets in the oven, but pan-roasting is another good way to achieve the flavor in a little less time. The trick to roasting on the stovetop is to chop the cauliflower into smaller pieces. I went for tiny florets in this recipe, but you could chop your cauliflower even smaller and reduce the cooking time further.
This dish is a riff on a Food52 recipe. I used our Italian Herbs blend, a classic medley of oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and sage that complements pasta, breadcrumbs, dressings and tomato-based sauces. I reach for Italian Herbs when I’m making a pasta sauce, breading a cutlet or making a crusty loaf of garlic bread.
Note that this is not a saucy pasta. If you prefer a saucier style, I think adding a white wine or cream-based sauce would be a delicious twist.
A couple other ideas: Use the cauliflower component without the pasta as a side dish to serve with fish or chicken. Or, toss it with mixed greens, olive oil and lemon juice for a delicious salad.
I have made this with and without anchovies, and it’s delicious either way. The anchovies melt down to nothing, leaving a layer of umami saltiness. If you omit the anchovies, you could try adding capers or chopped olives to add some of that briny flavor back in.
Pasta with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower and Italian Herbs
1 large head cauliflower ¼ cup olive oil2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced2 anchovy fillets (optional)2 teaspoons flake salt1 tablespoons Sumac 1 ½ tablespoons Italian Herbs¼ cup pine nuts½ cup breadcrumbs¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 8 oz pasta Goat Horn Chile Flakes for serving (optional)Lemon wedges, for serving
Trim any outer leaves from the cauliflower and slice off the bottom of the stem. Cook pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta water is heating up, chop the cauliflower into small pieces, including the stem. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When shimmering, add the sliced garlic and the optional anchovies and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden brown (careful not to let it burn).
Add the cauliflower, salt, sumac and Italian Herbs to the pan. Stir every few minutes until the cauliflower is evenly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pine nuts. Toast the nuts, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, careful not to burn them. Pour the pine nuts into a bowl.
Using the same small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until golden.
Stir the pine nuts, breadcrumbs and parmesan in with the cauliflower. Add the pasta to the skillet, stirring until the noodles are incorporated. Taste, adding salt if necessary.
Serve with additional parmesan, a squeeze of lemon and chile flakes if desired.