Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Maybe it’s because they’re both white, or perhaps it’s because they both tend to take in flavors from their surroundings, or maybe it’s because they both have a strong affinity for cheese. Whatever the reason, people just don’t put pasta with cauliflower often enough. And by “people” I mean people other than me. I do it … a lot. 

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower
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  1. 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into bite-size pieces
  2. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  4. 1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  7. 1/2 lb. penne or rigatoni pasta
  8. 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
  9. 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  10. 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  11. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  1. Crank oven to 400 degrees F and give it least 20 minutes to get good and hot.
  2. Toss the cauliflower with oil and 1 teaspoon salt in a 10" cast iron skillet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, carefully stirring halfway through.
  3. Remove skillet from oven and place over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes and occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes as they soften. Most of the tomato liquid has cooked out, about 5 minutes, remove from heat.
  4. Drop the uncooked pasta into a large saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the noodles by 1 inch. Stir in remaining salt and place over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and stir once a minute for 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  5. Use a spider to transfer the cooked pasta into the skillet with the cauliflower mixture followed by a quarter cup of the pasta water. Stir in Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, and top with bread crumbs.
  6. Return the skillet to the oven and cook another 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Remove and sprinkle with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan if that's your jam.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes before serving or you'll burn your face off.


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  1. 2
    Stephanie Glass

    We have a family that has recently been diagnosed allergic to milk. Its a sad day really…. But what would you substitute the Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese with?

  2. 4

    Good recipe. I saw the ingredient list and thought “puttanesca” so I improvised and doubled the red chile flake and added some finely minced anchovies (about 3-4 filets). which elevated the savoriness of the dish. Next go around I may add some oil cured olives as well.

  3. 6

    How delicious is this! I used fresh heirloom tomatoes (because I have a ton of them!) and farfalle. Taking note of the commenter who didn’t like the pasta getting too crunchy, I made a bit of an effort to make sure it was pushed down into the sauce a bit. In the end, though, the crunchy corners that emerged were my favourite part! This would be fabulous on a cold winter night. Would definitely make again!

  4. 7
    John Alves

    I grew up with my grandparents preparing pasta with all sorts of vegetables, including cauliflower. They would also toast breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over it. Yum.

  5. 8

    After shamefully tossing a couple uneaten cauliflower in the trash, i stumbled onto this recipe. I just made it. Let me tell you that this is wonderful! I will definitely make this again. I never would have combined pasta (which is a staple for me) and cauliflower. Who knew? Thank you Alton. Love it!

    • 10

      Starting pasta in cold water prevents possible bitterness. Hot water is harder and draws out more minerals from your piping changing the flavor of the water, however slightly. That’s why cold water is suggested. Saves on gas too 🙂

    • 11

      I know you would always start with cold water, but I think this is a great way to cook pasta. Using just slightly more water than is required to cover the pasta creates very starchy water to help thicken the sauce.

  6. 13

    I thought this recipe was great! Cauliflower is one of my favorite veggies, so I had to try this. If I had one knock, and it’s minor, it’s that some (not all) of my pasta wound up dry after finishing in the oven. Next time I might throw in a couple tablespoons of the tomato liquid.

    But, like I said, I had seconds and leftovers for lunch the next day. So any criticism I have is minor.

  7. 14

    Making this for dinner tonight! AB is the only food personality who consistently gets me excited to cook. My six year old loves him too and we cook together. Over winter break we are going to try AB’s marshmallow recipe and then make s’mores.

    • 16

      I think it’s that thing that looks like a spoon with holes in the middle and fingers pointing up. It grabs the pasta and leaves the water.

    • 17
      Jason Cozad

      It like a strainer made of wire, generally with a long wooden handle. I believe that it is called that because the basket look like a spider web.

  8. 18
    Michael MacDonald

    I plan to try this, or something like it. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from AB, it’s that recipes – especially his – are ideas. They aren’t meant to be taken literally. In his shows he uses them to show how different ingredients interact, and why. I think he would be the first person to tell you to take this and adjust it how you want. I think it’s a wonderful core concept, and as my girlfriend loves cauliflower and noodles, it’s at the top of my list after my next shopping run. She’s going to love me :D.

  9. 20

    I love this recipe. My kids love this recipe. Thanks for giving cauliflower a purpose in my life. It’s gotta be roasted with cheese or it’s just not worth it. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. 23

    It was dry. Bread crumbs should have been panko sautéed in butter. Needed 28 oz can tomatoes. Dry, dry, won’t try again and expected better from Alton Brown.

  11. 27

    Marty, the names of cooking utensils can have regional variations. A spider in some parts of the country is what some call a footed pot or skillet. A spider in this context appears to be what I know as a Chinese-style skimmer or strainer (on a handle). A picture or clear description never hurts when you are addressing a very wide-spread audience that may know a particular object by a different term.

    I agree with the call for more vegetarian recipes. I keep trying to tell people it isn’t just cheese and beans!

  12. 28

    If you don’t know what the cooking utensil a “spider” is clearly you haven’t watched any cooking shows. Or you are an ….. Who needs a diagram to know what a “spider” is ??

  13. 31

    Just made this tonight. One of my favorite AB recipes (and I’ve tried A LOT of them over the years). Definitely my favorite use of cauliflower ever. I’m not a vegetarian, but my wife is. This is a great meal that both of us can enjoy and I don’t feel like I’m missing meat at all. Please, more vegetarian recipes, Alton!

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