It all started with a craving for pasta with crab. I have this recipe in the archives which happens to be one of my favorites but I wanted a fiery component to the dish this time. In November, when dungeness crab season starts here in the Bay Area, I’ll be able to satisfy this craving. In the meantime, this happened instead and my taste buds didn’t complain.
This year I’ve kicked up our vegetable consumption by several notches. They’ve always played a big role in our diet but since January I’ve made sure that vegetables were present at almost every meal, and most certainly on the dinner table every night. I’ve gone through seasons of playing favorites. From January to May, I served sautéed kale and/or dandelion greens every night. Then they went out of favor in place of spinach. Now, after a few months, it, too, has lost its luster.
These days cauliflower and arugula reign. I’d be happy with an arugula salad for lunch and dinner with a piece of fish and some avocado thrown in, but what I can’t get enough of is roasted cauliflower. I don’t particularly enjoy raw or steamed cauliflower but when it’s roasted it’s one of my favorite vegetables. There’s something about garlic, olive oil and a little salt that brings out all of its best qualities.
When I decided to replace crab with cauliflower for this pasta dish I wasn’t very optimistic. Would the cauliflower stand up to the pasta and the chili sauce or would it be a bland mess? So I threw garlic and anchovies in for an umami kick, toasted bread crumbs for texture and scallions for peppery contrast. The results were more than I expected and I was very pleased. The fried egg on top didn’t hurt either.
Who needs crab? This pasta dish is made out of simple, inexpensive ingredients but the flavors are truly satisfying. Once you’re done with the cauliflower and the pasta the crunchy bits of garlic and toasted bread crumbs that have settled at the bottom of the bowl will light up your taste buds all over again. Don’t be tempted to substitute parsley for the scallions–they really do make the dish!
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Bread Crumbs
- **For the Cauliflower**
- 1 head cauliflower divided in small florets
- A few tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- **For the Pasta**
- 1 lb chitarra pasta or spaghetti
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic sliced
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 2-4 tablespoons good chili sauce or harissa depends on amount of heat you like(my recipe here
- Roasted Cauliflower
- 1 cup bread crumbs I used Panko
- 2-3 stalks scallions chopped (don't skip this)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 pasta water
- Fried Eggs optional (one per serving)
To prepare the cauliflower: Toss the florets with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake in a 400℉ oven for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and browned on one side. Set aside.
Toast the bread crumbs: In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir constantly until toasted and golden. Set aside. Wipe the bread crumbs clean from the pan. You will use it for the pasta.
To prepare the pasta: Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
In the same sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the anchovies. Once the anchovies begin to dissolve, 2-3 minutes, add the garlic. Cook on medium or medium-low heat until the garlic is slightly golden but not burned. You want a little color on the garlic for added flavor.
Add the chili sauce (and more olive oil since this will be your "sauce"). Cook for just a minute or two until it's heated through then turn up the heat a little and add the pasta and cauliflower. If it looks too dry, add half the pasta water and more olive oil. Squeeze in some lemon juice, to taste. Toss in half of the bread crumbs and half of the scallions. Turn off the heat, plate and serve. Garnish with more bread crumbs and scallions.
Serve with a fried egg on top if you like.