Puttanesca-Style Cauliflower With Linguine

December 21, 2020
10 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Amanda Wadis.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Made almost entirely from pantry ingredients, this speedy, richly flavored pasta is the best cure I know of for the winter blahs. It’s a play on puttanesca, the classic garlicky tomato sauce from southern Italy that’s loaded with anchovies, capers, and olives. My version omits the tomatoes and invites a whole head of cauliflower to the party. The florets are quickly braised in olive oil and a bit of the starchy pasta water, which renders them meltingly tender and almost nutty-sweet in flavor. The whole dish comes together in roughly the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. I’ll never turn down any version of puttanesca, but I’ll admit that I’m quite partial to this hearty, reimagined rendition.

A few notes and tips: An equal amount of broccoli can stand in for the cauliflower, or feel free to experiment with other vegetables, such as mushrooms or thinly shredded cabbage. I like linguine here, but reach for whatever dried pasta you have on hand. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the anchovies, and go a little heavy on the capers, olives, and Parmesan for added umami.

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 8 anchovies, minced and smashed into a paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed if salt-packed
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup pitted and halved olives, such as oil-cured black olives or Castraveltrano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the linguine; cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch braising pan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add anchovies and cook until they melt into the oil, about 1 minute. Add garlic, capers, olives, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower florets, lemon zest, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Sauté for a minute or two, stirring to coat the florets evenly in the oil. Add 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Cover, and braise until tender, about 10 minutes (time will depend on size of florets). Add a little extra cooking water, if needed. Adjust salt to taste.
  4. Tip: If your linguine is done before the cauliflower, toss it in a little olive oil and a splash of the cooking water and set aside.
  5. Toss linguine in the pot with the cauliflower, along with 1/4 to 1/3 cup more pasta water. (The tender cauliflower will likely break into smaller pieces while you’re tossing—this is fine!) Add 2 teaspoons (or more) lemon juice, and adjust salt and red pepper flakes to your liking. Top each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan, if using.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • jpriddy
  • Judith Mazo
    Judith Mazo
  • EmilyC
  • lazysusankitchen

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

12 Reviews

lazysusankitchen January 14, 2021
Delicious!! Used some chopped calabrian chiles as well as red pepper flakes - added a bit more of a kick. Super savoury flavours. Made with Banza shells and some of the small chopped cauliflower pieces wound up nested inside them, so it was a good marriage :)
EmilyC January 15, 2021
Wonderful to hear! I LOVE calabrian chiles too -- I often use the dried flakes in this dish and other pastas. Thanks for trying this and circling back!!
jpriddy January 13, 2021
EmilyC January 14, 2021
: )
T January 4, 2021
Very Good! Love another way to eat cauliflower! Added more pepper flakes-wanted more of a kick, and more lemon juice for brightness. The parm in each bowl is a must! Great way to sneak in some healthy anchovies!
EmilyC January 5, 2021
So glad you liked it, T! Thanks for your note!
T January 4, 2021
Very Good! Love another way to eat cauliflower! Only had kalamata olives on hand.
Used more pepper flakes-wanted more of a kick, and added more lemon juice for brightness. The parm added to each bowl is needed. Great way to get some healthy anchovies snuck in a dish!
SunshineLDN January 4, 2021
Good evening, I just served this up for dinner and it was a total hit! Three very happy diners. We only had a small cauliflower so I bulked up with some chestnut mushrooms. Loved the zingy little pine nuts at the end to finish off the plate. Thanks for the recipe!
EmilyC January 5, 2021
Yay! And great call on the chestnut mushrooms to stretch the dish -- yum! Thanks for trying this and circling back.
Judith M. December 24, 2020
This looks delicious, BUT: "prep time: 5 min". To peel and juice a lemon, peel and slice 3 garlic cloves, halve 3/4 C olives, mash 8 anchovies and cut a large head of cauliflower or broccoli into florets? No wonder my meals are always at least an hour late. Nonetheless, we'll have this soon, just not soon enough on the appointed day. Happy holidays
EmilyC December 24, 2020
Thanks for pointing this out! It should be 15 minutes; I changed it in the recipe above. Hope you enjoy the dish!
Audrey January 17, 2021
lol. Thank you for's a God-send these days.