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.
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
linguine or spaghetti
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
anchovies, minced and smashed into a paste
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
capers, rinsed if salt-packed
to 1 cup pitted and halved olives, such as oil-cured black olives or Castraveltrano
red pepper flakes, or more to taste
large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
lemon juice, or to taste
Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.