Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Best Pasta Dish You'll Ever Make

The time: maybe about ten years ago.
The location: my grandma's house.

We arrive at my grandma's house after traveling for three hours and ask her what is for dinner. She responds: Pasta with Cauliflower. I sort of cringe in my head. My grandma is a great cook! Why isn't she making something delicious and Italian? Maybe something with a nice red sauce? Do I even like cauliflower?But we carried on with our afternoon, and I thought "Oh well, it's pasta, and I have a wide palette in terms of foods and flavors that I enjoy. How bad can it be?"

So a little while later, we go into the kitchen to start preparing the meal, and Grandma lifts the cover off of a large pan, and begins stirring it with a wooden spoon. She turns the burner on low to warm the mixture up. The most phenomenal smell fills the kitchen as she stirs.

"OH my goodness, what is that??" I asked her, leaning over, wanting to taste it right then.
"That's the cauliflower."

And thus began my obsession with Pasta & Cauliflower. I wish there was a better name for it to adequately describe the delicious flavor and consistency. I mean, who would go into a restaurant and order "Pasta & Cauliflower" off the menu? But trust me. And make this. Even for those of you who think you don't like cauliflower. Jump in and do it. You won't be sorry. And bonus: IT'S SO EASY! Don't you love it already?

Disclaimer: You must like garlic in order to like this meal. You also must like garlic in order to enter my home. Unless you're willing to do dishes. Or you are bringing wine. Then you are welcome anytime. Glad we got that squared away.

Ingredients you'll need:
1 head of cauliflower
1 pound of pasta (any shape really, I usually use Angel Hair or Rigatoni. Or Rotini. So yeah, any shape.)
5-7 nice sized garlic cloves, crushed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ("EVOO")
Salt & Pepp
1-2 cups water

Start by roughly chopping the cauliflower.

There is no right or wrong way. Little florets if wish, because florets is a really pretty word. And how much fun to tell your friend: "Oh can you just chop that into florets real quick?"

Give em a nice rinse. We want to keep our babies safe from supermarket-packaging diseases. And our husbands. Oh yes, and then there's ourselves. Let's not forget about the chef!

Next, add about 3 tablespoons of EVOO to a large saucepan, and turn it on med-high. That's about 3 generous spins around the pan. There's no need to measure, you'll be adding more later. Don't be afraid of the EVOO - this will essentially be the "sauce" to your pasta, and nobody wants a dry pasta dish! (p.s. Check on the blue sky reflection in the oil! How glorious and Springy)

**Side note about Extra Virgin Olive Oil: It is a Super Food. Which means it has unbelievable health benefits for the human body. The "extra virgin" part means that it is the first pressed from the olive. It therefore has a very high level of antioxidants, and is less processed than even regular olive oil. Studies have proven that consuming 2 TBl. of EVOO per day, for just one week, will lower your risk of heart disease and raise level of antioxidants in your blood. Spread the EVOO love! I could write a whole post on EVOO I think.

After the oil has heated for a bit, add the cauliflower and begin cooking. Your pan will remain on the stove - I needed to move mine so it would catch the sunlight :)

While the cauliflower begins to cook, peel and crush your garlic. These are QUITE large cloves, so I only used 6. But I almost always use at last 7. The garlic simmers for a while, so don't worry about the flavor being too strong. The first time I made this, my only mistake was not adding enough garlic, which severely changes the flavor.

Add garlic, salt & pepp, and a some more EVOO to the already cooking cauliflower. We won't want the pan to sound angry - if it does, lower the heat a bit and add more EVOO. You know what I mean by angry - loud, really sizzly, smoking. These are not adjectives that should describe the cooking cauliflower. Give the pan a nice stir every so often, allowing the cauliflower and garlic to begin to brown in color. This should only take a few minutes. Careful., as always, not to burn your garlic. Brown garlic = good garlic. Black garlic = burned garlic.

Then your pan will look like this. Some sides starting to take color, but the cauliflower will still be firm. Notice you can see the salt & pepp. I am not one to skimp on the seasonings.

Now, essentially, your work is done! At this point, you will add about 1-2 tall glasses full of water to the pan. The cauliflower should not be submerged in water completely, that is not our goal here. [Don't worry - this pasta will not be watery! The water is added in order the soften the cauliflower and make it a glorious consistency that is able to be broken with a wooden spoon. Mmmm. ] Anyway, you will cover the pan and lower the heat to nice low simmer. Then walk away, and leave it simmering for about 45 minutes. The more time you let it simmer - the better!

When your cauliflower looks like this, it is finished. It will be a beautiful golden color, that only comes from the time spent simmering in. When you go to stir it, the cauliflower should break and fall apart easily. The water should simmer off, just leaving the oil in the pan. Now, mix with your favorite shape of pasta!

Then top with Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Please note: after taking this picture, I added lots more cheese to my dish. The amount of cheese I enjoy would not adequately be able to still display the pasta in all it's beauty.

Then say, "Yessss honey, dinner is ready. Thank you, I love the way it smells too. No, you can't eat all of it tonight, that's too much pasta for one person. Yes, I'll give it to you for lunch tomorrow." This conversation really happened.

Possible Things You Might Think You Did Wrong, But Should Not Freak Out About:

1. "Darn! I added too much EVOO!" First of all, don't freak out, because you probably didn't. Let the cauliflower keep cooking, and I bet it will all absorb nicely, you just won't add more later. Secondly, if you did, and it looks like it's drowning already before you add the water, just pour some oil into a small Tupperware, and freeze it! Defrost it for your next sauce, it will just have a nice mild garlic-y flavor.

2. "Darn! I added too much water!" Don't freak out. But also, don't pour any out. This would also mean pouring out valuable and beautifully flavored EVOO. Just simmer it for a bit longer, and it will be glorious!

3. "Darn! I think I added to much garlic!" Don't freak out. This is impossible.

Godspeed, & happy tummys!
Love, Kate


  1. vanessa spadaforaApril 24, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    mm I love this dish! I am also eating your stir fry dish right now and thanking God for bringing you into my life and teaching me how to cook :) mmm my tummy is happy!

  2. Love this dish....since childhood...(except when I was 12 and burned it)!!! Thank you for holding onto you darlin. mama

  3. Ok, I love this meal too, and I'm so glad that you posted this!! I needed the step by step directions (because if you remember, I messed it up twice already!! Once, I burned the cauliflower while chasing The Maditude around; and another time I don't know what went wrong, but I missed a step somewhere!!) Thank you!!

    You made a salad with cucumbers and avocados once that was sooo yummy! I'd love that recipe some day!! I'll just keep coming back and stealing all of your meals!!

  4. i made this last night and it was delicious. my husband was one happy man! thanks kate!
    -mrs grande! :)