Pasta with Slow-Cooked Cauliflower, Anchovies, and Garlic

By • October 2, 2014 44 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe has been adapted from Pasta: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, Rome Sustainable Food Project -- it's a mouthful, but this book has had me captivated since receiving it. The Rome Sustainable Food Project was founded by Alice Waters, and Christopher Boswell, the chef of the RSFP and author of the book, is a Chez Panisse alum. This book, which could almost fit in your pocket, is filled with thoughtfully written recipes and great tips on sauce making and cooking pasta and salting water, etc. Adjust the quantities of garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes to taste. I have made this with and without rosemary, and I find that a little rosemary goes a long way -- if you add too much it dominates the dish.

To make toasted breadcrumbs: Place a heaping cup of pulsed fresh breadcrumbs on a sheet pan with two tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss with your fingers to moisten the crumbs. Bake at 300º F for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. This can be done stovetop, too, just be sure to use a pan big enough so that the crumbs brown evenly.
Alexandra Stafford

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Serves 4

  • Salt
  • 1 whole cauliflower, about 2 pounds before being trimmed
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, depending on your preferences
  • 4 to 5 anchovy filets
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Minced fresh rosemary to taste, optional (a little goes a long way)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
  • 1/2 pound pasta, whole-wheat varieties are nice here, and small shapes (orecchiette, elbows, etc.) are nice, too
  • 1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs (see notes above for guidance making these)
  • 1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously (with at least a tablespoon of salt) and drop in the cauliflower florets -- you might have to do this in two batches. Blanch for 5 minutes, remove using a spider or slotted spoon, and spread the florets on a baking sheet to cool. Reserve water to cook the pasta. Meanwhile, mince the anchovies and garlic together into a paste.
  2. Place 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the olive oil and the cauliflower in your largest sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft and falling apart. Try to resist stirring too often -- letting the florets cook undisturbed allows them to brown nicely. This might take 15 to 20 minutes. Add the additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan if necessary, and adjust heat during this cooking time if necessary, too.
  3. Make a well in the cauliflower and add the garlic-anchovy paste. Add a pinch of the rosemary and hot red pepper flakes to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden, then turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper flakes, or rosemary.
  4. Drop the pasta into the boiling cauliflower water, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Transfer the pasta to the pan and toss well, until the cauliflower sauce has thoroughly coated the pasta, adding cooking water by the tablespoon (remember the water will be salty, so use caution when adding it to the pasta) if necessary. Top with breadcrumbs and serve immediately with freshly grated Grana.

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