Slow Cooker

Pasta with Slow-Cooked Cauliflower, Anchovies, and Garlic

October  2, 2014
11 Ratings
  • Serves 4
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 here. 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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lily Applebaum
    Lily Applebaum
  • Cheryl
  • Jesica
  • Dave
  • Transcendancing
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

61 Reviews

sassiuna November 15, 2020
Nice simple preparation. Made with a beautiful large, head of romanesco broccoli and a full pound of linguine. Added the zest of a small lemon to the breadcrumbs and a tablespoon of capers when adding the garlic and anchovy. Served with some nice extra virgin olive oil at the table to drizzle on top. Really let the flavor and beauty of the romanesco come through (look for it in your farmers market)
Lindsey S. May 13, 2020
This is a delicious pasta. We went heavy handed with the chili flake and garlic which I recommend if you like kick. The breadcrumbs make it terrific -- we also added some chopped fresh parsley at the end. My kids both added a squeeze of lemon for a bit of acid. My only quibble is that a half box of pasta would never serve my family of four so I doubled the recipe.
ARay May 10, 2020
I love this sooooo much. I don't even think it needs the breadcrumbs! Perfection.
Lily A. November 16, 2017
I love these flavors together -- all the cauliflower at the supermarket was 3 pounds+ so i cooked the whole pound of pasta, all the anchovies in the tin, about four cloves of garlic, and a whole teaspoon of chili flake. I felt like it needed some acid at the end, so I added about a 1/4 C of capers and brine before i tasted for salt at the end. Delicious! I like cauliflower more dry and al dente so next time I don't think I would blanch it first, mine all kind of dissolved into a sauce.
Wannaworship October 19, 2017
After an Italian introduced me to this dish, I was hooked. Happily I found your recipe when I googled the ingredients!! Thank you from the bottom of my stomach - This is the only pasta dish I will eat!!
Alexandra S. October 20, 2017
so happy to hear this!
betty H. September 22, 2017
Half a pound of pasta for 4 people and a quarter cauliflower? you are either all on a starvation diet, or we are very greedy! :-)
Cheryl June 26, 2017
Oh so yummy and comforting. I just cooked the cauliflower in a little water in a large skillet with lid. Then after the cauliflower was a bit tender, browned it in the skillet. Didn't bother to make a paste of the garlic and anchovy, just added them to the pan and sauteed briefly at the end. I used gluten free small pasta shells. Will definitely make again.
Alexandra S. June 27, 2017
Frances January 29, 2017
This was an amazing recipe. Replaced the rosemary with parsley and added green onions because I needed to use them up and omitted anchovies for veg version.
Alexandra S. January 29, 2017
Nice! So happy to hear this. Thanks for sharing your variations, all of which sound delicious!
Jesica January 24, 2017
I'm planning to make this receipe as dinner tonight, quick question: can i replace the cauliflower for broccoli?
Alexandra S. January 24, 2017
I can't say for sure. Broccoli and cauliflower don't cook exactly the same, but because of this genius broccoli cooked forever recipe (, something tells me it will. You have to be OK with not al dente vegetables with this one. Hope that helps!
Jesica January 24, 2017
Thank you! I will give a try and let you know.
Alison January 14, 2017
Delicious! I think my cauliflower was a little smaller than 2 pounds (should have actually weighed it), but I don't think it affected the outcome much. I chopped into smaller florets, like one of the other reviewers. I used 3 small cloves of garlic (from the interior of the head) and about 2/3 cup of toasted bread crumbs (which really added to the flavors, to my surprise, as well as adding a nice crunch). The cooking time for the cauliflower is pretty accurate, and resulted in a lovely caramelized flavor to go along with the garlic and anchovies. The anchovy flavor didn't overpower the rest of the dish, since they essentially dissolve into the coating on the veggies.
Alexandra S. January 15, 2017
So happy to hear this, Alison! Thanks for sharing your notes.
Alison January 7, 2018
I have been making this ever since I first tried it, and still love it. I occasionally add more anchovy and/or garlic, but basically make it as written. However, one option I have added is making the cauliflower with a little less anchovy and serving it without the pasta as a side dish with other mains--it works really well that way, too. thanks again for this recipe!
Dave October 16, 2016
Love the flavor of this dish! Substituted farro for the pasta & skipped the bread crumbs. The sauce took to the grain great!
Alexandra S. October 16, 2016
Love the sound of all of these changes! Thanks for writing in!
Transcendancing March 6, 2016
How strong does the anchovy flavour come through at the end? I'm only a recent convert to the melting-disintegration umami properties of anchovy (and I still find myself using them sparingly). However, this looks so great and I do want to try it, but want to work out if I'd be making something I wouldn't eat myself (but the household would devour). Thanks!
Alexandra S. March 6, 2016
It's really not too strong, but if you are nervous, I suggest using 2 anchovies — there is enough flavor coming from the other ingredients, that an anchovy or two left out won't impact the final dish drastically. I say go for it! I love this pasta recipe, and I love the cookbook it comes from.
Transcendancing March 6, 2016
Awesome! I will try it with less anchovy - hopefully sometime this week. It does look *delicious*
whatshername February 28, 2016
This is awesome! I love the flavor profiles. So adding this in my rotation!
whatshername February 28, 2016
As a side note, the cauliflower stands on its own. It would make an awesome side dish!
Alexandra S. February 28, 2016
Yay! So happy to hear this! I love this flavor combination as well — you are so right about the cauliflower being able to stand on its own.
elizabeth July 2, 2015
Made this tonight and it was delicious! It looked nothing like the picture--I kept the cauliflower large because I wanted it to be the star and I used pappardelle which absorbed the flavors deliciously...I also chose to toast walnuts in lieu of the breadcrumbs. It was a great dinner. Thank you!
Alexandra S. July 3, 2015
Wonderful to hear this! I love pappardelle. Walnuts sound like a nice match for all of the flavors here, too. Yum.
Tonya April 7, 2015
This definitely became my favourite pasta dish! All the flavours are just amazing together. I do break my cauliflower into quite small florets so they mimic the size of the pasta and also add parsley and lemon zest to the bread crumbs. Love this dish, thank you!
Alexandra S. July 3, 2015
So happy to hear this! And sorry I'm just seeing this now. Love the idea of adding parsley and lemon zest to the crumbs. Yum!
kara February 20, 2015
I've got a tin of smoked herring fillets. Would they work as a substitute for the anchovies?
Alexandra S. July 3, 2015
Hi Kara,

Ao sorry I'm just seeing this! Unfortunately, I don't think smoked herring fillets will over quite the same flavor as the anchovies — I'm worried that the smoky flavor will dominate rather than provide that salty, umami flavor that anchovies provide. Of course you could try, but I suspect the dish will just be different. Let me know if you give it a go!
wordridden January 8, 2015
This is delicious, thank you! I also added parsley and lemon zest with the anchovies, and even added a tiny squeeze of lemon at the end. And instead of chopped rosemary, I threw a whole sprig in with the cauliflower as it cooked in the olive oil so it infused the oil for a gentler flavor.
Alexandra S. July 3, 2015
Genius! Love the idea of infusing the olive oil with the rosemary especially since rosemary can easily be overdone. And a squeeze of lemon at the end sounds nice, too.
Fran M. December 31, 2014
Can't wait to try this.
AntoniaJames December 30, 2014
Whoa. How did I miss this one? Alexandra, what brand of whole wheat pasta do you like? It hasn't been universally embraced in my household, though I have reason to believe (especially with a recipe like this one) that could change. Thank you. ;o)
Alexandra S. December 30, 2014
It hasn't in my household either :) I think I just use Barilla whole wheat elbows here. I like DeCecco brand, too. Both of those you can find anywhere. If you feel like exploring other options though, awhile ago now, I tried some buckwheat pasta — I forget the brand — and it was so tasty. I feel like that would be really good in this dish. Happy New Year!!
Miriam G. December 4, 2014
This was terrific. Lots of umami. I added chopped spinach and halved cherry tomatoes along with the anchovy/garlic paste. I
Alexandra S. July 3, 2015
Yay! Love the idea of adding more veggies to this.