Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pasta with Parsley Sauce and Cauliflower

We spent the first couple of weeks of January doing our best to be real vegetarians. We don't eat that much meat anyway and we were... ok at it. I think we'll do it again this summer when we have greens coming out our ears from our CSA in June or in September when all I want to eat is tomato sandwiches, but in January it's a bit of a challenge (so kudos to Andrew and Cara who made it the entire month!) Particularly when everyone around you is eating hot dogs and you LOVE hot dogs but you eat a veggie burger instead. Le sigh.

There are lots of people who will happily get into the politics and morals of why you should or shouldn't eat meat, and for us it wasn't 100% an ethical thing, though our reasons were many: quality, ethically raised meat is expensive. It's not great for the planet. It's easy to eat too many calories if you're eating meat. In general, vegetables are lower in fat and higher in fiber. We are back to eating meat a couple of times a week, but we haven't set up strict guidelines. If you're not already, have you ever "gone veg" for a week or a month at a time? How'd you do? What surprised you?

I cooked out of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone a lot (those curried parsnips were a standout, as well as a mushroom pot pie that I really need to tell you about) and then we bought this weird green cauliflower. It must have been a hybrid brocco-flower type thing, because the florets weren't quite as compact as white cauliflower. I ignored the weirdness and adapted a pasta recipe from Gourmet,  just in time for February's Gourmet Unbound. In the original, you are supposed to steam the florets but it was cold in my kitchen and I wanted to turn on the oven and roasted vegetable is almost always tastier than steamed vegetable... so I roasted it. I took a look at the parsley sauce and said, oh, that's basically a pesto without nuts and garlic. Since I had pine nuts and garlic, I incorporated those. And because raw garlic is often too sharp for my taste and I already had the oven on, I roasted a few cloves with the cauliflower before whizzing them into the sauce. Top the plate with a little snowstorm of parmesan cheese, or skip it if you're vegan.

Pasta with Parsley Sauce and Cauliflower
adapted from Gourmet, February 1993
serves 4

2 1/2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves
small handful pine nuts, toasted (about 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup olive oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, unpealed
1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch flowerets and the stems sliced thin
3/4 pound campanelle or rotelle pasta (something with a ruffly edge, please)
1 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, chopped fine
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese 

Heat the oven to 375 while you chop the cauliflower into florets. Toss florets and unpeeled garlic cloves with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon or so of salt, and a bit of pepper. Spread on a sheet pan (one with sides) and roast, stirring once or twice for 20-25 minutes until cauliflower is tender with some brown spots.

While the cauliflower roasts, wash the parsley and separate the leaves from the stems. (You can stick the stems in a freezer bag and freeze them for making stock later, if you're into that sort of thing.) Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently and taking them off the heat and out of the pan just when you start to smell them. Do not turn your back on pine nuts, because they go from toasty to charred in a matter of seconds and charred is burnt and burnt is bad. Grab the garlic cloves (use tongs) from the roasting pan in the oven after about 20 minutes, leave the cauliflower in for 5 more minutes if it's not done. Remove the skins, the cloves should be soft and squishy, if not entirely spreadable.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Start the pasta going when the cauliflower has about 10 minutes left, and cook just to al dente, then drain. Save a cup or so of the pasta-cooking water in case you need it to thin out the pesto.

For the parsley pesto, in a blender or food processor (or the tiny attachment to the stick blender, which is my new favorite kitchen toy), puree the parsley leaves, roasted garlic cloves, toasted pine nuts, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Stop and scrape the sides, and if necessary add another glug of olive oil. Process again, until you  have a pesto-like sauce.

To serve, toss pasta with parsley pesto, cauliflower and olives, top with parmesan cheese.


  1. I am in love with roasted cauliflower - good call to roast instead of steam. Thanks for sharing - it's great to see where others like to wander from a recipe and make it their own (and it sounds like you made it a lot better!)

  2. Scate, I am nearly incapable of leaving a recipe alone, especially when it's a flavor group I feel familiar with. Asian-style recipes I tend to try as written the first time, because I'm less comfy with those flavors, and things-to-be-canned because messing with pH could be dangerous. But pasta with cauliflower? That I can handle.

  3. this sounds absolutely delicious! roasted cauliflower (or any roasted veggie for that matter) is so amazing, it took me by surprise :)

  4. This looks delish! Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorites

  5. I tried to be a vegetarian at Wheaton for about a week. Then, on Mexican day in the dining hall in Emerson, they mislabeled vegetarian enchiladas and chicken enchiladas. I was very impressed with the chicken tofu, which was actually chicken meat, and thus the end of my vegetarian stint. -Jessica

  6. This sounds really fantastic. I bet it would be great with basil instead of parsley too... like a real pesto sauce.
    I think I'm going to live in my kitchen once it's done...

  7. This has inspired me to buy cauliflower. I love it but I cook with it so rarely!

    My boyfriend and I have decided to eat meat less frequently. Mostly for health reasons. I don't find it that difficult because I love vegetables and he has been learning to love more vegetables with me. When I do make meat it's usually in something that we'll eat for a couple of days or something that can get frozen for later use.

    Because we're not vegetarians, if I need broth in something I use chicken broth (and I do think the organic kind is better) and don't consider that eating meat if it's in a vegetarian dish. But maybe I should...

  8. Ooooh, sounds fantastic. GREAT call to roast the cauliflower. I'm going to try this soon.

    Hey, how did you find your recipe for Gourmet, unbound? I found that if I specified "vegetarian" as one of the search terms on Epicurious it was only giving me recipes back to 1995 or so. I thought it would be fun to pull something from really deep in the archives, but I didn't have time to wade through all the meat recipes!

  9. This looks wonderful - and green and bright, perfect for midwinter. Roasted cauliflower is so tasty, it probably was even better than with the steamed version. And I love cauloflower with pasta. I'm going to have to try this one! Thanks!

  10. Good Day to you Adrienne, Thanks for sharing the recipe for this pasta food.

  11. I've made this several times and it's a household favorite. It doesn't make the greatest leftovers though. I've also made it just using dried basil and it is great!mold removal toronto