This pasta was the product of improvisation and last minute decisions. I find that some of my best choices come from there.
I knew I wanted to use a head of cauliflower that I bought at the farmers’ market over the weekend in pasta, but I wasn’t sure what to combine it with. I thought about toasted pine nuts and caramelized onions.
Then, I spent part of yesterday afternoon in St. Louis’s Italian neighborhood, The Hill. As I was strolling around, I went into an Italian grocery and saw a huge plastic container full of fresh Italian breadcrumbs. I bought it and went home after work and made this pasta.
My favorite part of the recipe, apart from the breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture, is the cauliflower. I used to hate cauliflower because I thought it was tasteless and bland. That was before I learned how to make it taste good.
For this recipe, I tossed it with some olive oil, sprinkled on a generous amount of salt and pepper, added some red chili flakes, and roasted it in the oven until it got golden brown and slightly charred. The cauliflower really takes on the flavor of the roast, which is to say, it gets a smoky, caramelized flavor. It’s delicious with the salty Parmesan cheese and the fresh basil.
You could add parsley instead of basil for the greens on top, but I had a bunch of basil I wanted to use up.
In other news, it’s almost the weekend and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s starting to get cold in St. Louis but it’s still nice enough to be outside. If the weather isn’t too bad on Saturday, I’m going to go on a hike out in Augusta.
In the meantime, I’ll be jamming out to this song. It’s perfect for times when you’re stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for more than an hour in the morning and you want to jump out of your car and start running down the shoulder of the road.
Campanelle with Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/2 ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (or more if you like it super spicy)
1 box campanelle
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs, toasted
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
5-6 basil leaves, roughly torn
Parmesan cheese for topping
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cauliflower on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Toss on the sheet and then roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is browned and slightly charred.
In the meantime, make the breadcrumbs/Parmesan mixture. Toast the crumbs and the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant. Place in a bowl and allow to cool slightly, then toss with a drizzle of olive oil and the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Cook the campanelle according to package directions. Make sure to put a lot of salt in the water before cooking the pasta. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water before you drain the pasta.
Combine the pasta, breadcrumb/cheese mixture, and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water in the pot you cooked the pasta in. Top with basil and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!