March 31, 2018

Pasta with Cauliflower Pesto

pasta with cauliflower pesto

It's that time of the year where I'm feeling uninspired, cooking-wise. I'm eagerly waiting for winter to end, for the first availability of asparagus and rhubarb because that's when I know spring has finally arrived.

For now, I'm resorting to my old standby meals, the ones I've made countless of times and know they will come out delicious with minimal effort involved.

sundried tomato pesto

This recipe comes from Deb's first cookbook, which is full of gems. You start off by pulsing cauliflower in a food processor (before cauliflower rice became a thing), process the rest of the ingredients to make a pesto, then toss everything together with some pasta. The food processor does all the work and you end up with a tasty meal.

cauliflower rice + pasta

The original recipe called for linguine but I find smaller shaped pastas adhere better to the pesto. I decreased the amount of pasta by half so that you get more cauliflower pesto goodness with every bite.

Pasta with Cauliflower Pesto
Slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 small head or 1/2 large head cauliflower (about 1 pound or 455 grams), trimmed of leaves, cored, and cut into large chunks
2 garlic cloves
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (70 grams) almonds or pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2 ounce (55 grams) chunk Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus a little more for passing
6 sun-dried tomatoes (dry variety; if oil-packed, be sure to drain them and chop them by hand separately, so the oil doesn't gum up the food-processor mixture, before you add them)
1 tablespoon drained capers
Few tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1/2 pound (230 grams) pasta

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

Prepare pesto: Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and repeat with the second batch, adding it to the same bowl when you are finished. If your cauliflower looks like the perfect texture but one large chunk insists upon escaping the steel blade's grasp, pick it out and pulse it separately. You'll have about 4 cups of fluffy, delightful cauliflower-couscous crumbs.

Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley (if using) in a food processor until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower, add the olive oil and a few pinches of salt, and stir until combined. (If you do this step in the food processor, it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.) Taste and adjust seasoning as needed - either adding more salt or pepper.

Assemble dish: Once water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until it is al dente (cooked, but with a tiny bite left). Reserve a cup of the cooking water, then drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed. If the pesto still feels too thick, loosen it with the remaining reserved cooking water. Divide among bowls, and pass with additional Parmesan cheese.


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