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December 16, 2008

Cauliflower Pasta

Cavatappi con Cavolfiore, Zafferano e Mente Dominic Armato

Hey, we haven't had a good pasta recipe around these parts in a while!

Cauliflower has become my go-to pet pasta ingredient as of late. It's easy to prepare, it gets beautifully sweet when caramelized, it pairs perfectly with a chaotic, chunky pasta and it loves parmesan. The obsession started with an absurdly simple Batali recipe that's threatening to unseat Rigatoni all'Amatriciana as the official Armato/Scudiere household pasta and has persisted through a few spur of the moment variations, of which this is one of my favorites. Plus, bonus... what Italian word is more fun to say than cavolfiore?

Dominic Armato

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1/2 head cauliflower
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 pinch saffron threads
1/4 C. chopped fresh mint, divided
1/2 lb. cavatappi
grated parmesan
Cavatappi con Cavolfiore, Zafferano e Mente
Serves 2 as an entree, 3-4 as a primo

As always, first refer to the Ten Commandments of Dry Pasta for instructions on general pasta cookery.

While your water is coming to a boil, you can do all of your prep and start the cauliflower. Trim the cauliflower and break it into small florets, slicing larger ones into halves or quarters, giving it time to dry after washing. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and, when hot, toss in the garlic cloves. Cook the garlic cloves, turning as necessary, until they're light golden all over, then remove and discard them (or, if you're me, set them aside, salt and eat them). Immediately toss in the cauliflower, spread it evenly around the pan and for the next few minutes, resist the urge to play Chen Kenichi, practicing your pao action, and don't touch it. You want each piece to take a nice browned color on one side. When the underside of the cauliflower has started to brown nicely, toss well and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another ten minutes or so, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is browned all over and has started to soften. Rather than constantly stirring, try to leave it alone for a couple of minutes at a time so the cauliflower has time to develop its color. If it starts to burn, however, turn the heat down and take it off the fire, stirring constantly, to give it a moment to cool.

When the cauliflower has reached this point, drop your cavatappi in the water, turn the heat under the cauliflower down to low, and let it cook gently, tossing occasionally, for another 7-8 minutes.

When your pasta is just a couple of minutes away from being done, the cauliflower should be browned and tender, but maintain some texture. Shove the cauliflower to the edges of the pan and drop the butter into the middle. When the butter melts, add the saffron threads, stir the butter and let the saffron warm in the butter for a minute or two until your pasta is just about ready. Toss the cauliflower and saffron butter thoroughly and check and adjust your seasoning. Drain the pasta, add it to the cauliflower skillet and toss for a minute to combine and let the flavors come together. Just before serving, quickly chop the fresh mint, add two tablespoons to the pasta and toss.

Plate the pasta, top with a bit of the remaining mint and some parmesan cheese, and serve.


Sounds delicious, but:

"Plus, bonus... what Italian word is more fun to say than cavalfiore?"

For my money the best Italian food word is definitely carciofo.


Admittedly, a very tough call. But I'm sticking with cavolfiore :-)

I was always partial to scungilli. Not technically Italian, I suppose.

Wow, that sounds easy and delicious...

bless you for this.

Made it tonight, and am happy to announce I was right: it was easy and delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

I adapted this for my Christmas crowd. I added carmelized onions, put it in a dish, threw the cheese on top and baked it. Not as good as non-baked pasta but practical and delicious.

I made this last night and it was awesome - thanks!

This is fabulous. Much easier to sell cavolfiore to teens than cauliflower, too.

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