So, here’s the thing. I somehow reached “adulthood” … rather, an age at which I am no longer a teenager, let’s be honest … without ever really having eaten cauliflower. Seriously. For some reason, it was not one of those vegetables we had growing up, and really, I didn’t think I was missing out. I mean, it’s white. And boring looking. And I like color on my plate! But something about this smittenkitchen recipe had me thinking that it was high time I tried it.
Perhaps it was the pretty pictures, or my current unexplainable obsession with pomegranates, but one day in the last few months, I did it. I bought a head of cauliflower, and decided that I liked it. It turns out that I didn’t just like it, I became a bit obsessed with cauliflower. I followed her recipe to a T. Over and over. I’d roast it while I was making other things that were just filler till I got to the cauliflower. I never got tired of it. I wanted to find other ways that I could enjoy it just as much.
And that’s when I came across this recipe on thekitchn that is pretty incredible itself – though not for the reasons I thought it would be when I found it. You see, I thought I was finding this recipe to expand my cauliflower palate. But instead I got something that was complex, and cheesy, and salty, and oh yeah – there was delicious cauliflower in it. But it wasn’t the only star.
This isn’t your average pasta dish, that’s for sure. And I’m in love with how the wine makes the cheddar sing here. The capers add saltiness and complexity, and the cabbage is smooth and buttery and I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I have been re-making this over and over because I enjoy it so. To top it all off, there’s the crispy roasted cauliflower.
The original recipe calls for medium capers, and oil to pan fry them. Honestly, I ran out of patience with that idea pretty much as soon as I added the oil to the fry pan the first time. I am sure there are some who will insist the capers need to be fried. But I wanted this to be a week-night dinner, and that was more than I could take on. Plus, there’s already butter and oil in here, and I didn’t really miss the fried capers. I did love their saltiness against the buttery cabbage.
Everything sautés quite easily while the cauliflower roasts. Toss it together, and you have what I may have described to a friend as a “sophisticated” dish. And it is just that, especially for a weeknight meal.
Roasted Cauliflower and Cabbage Pasta with Capers and Cheddar
Adapted from thekitchn
Serves 4 or more
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into small-sized florets
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium head Savoy cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup large capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 pound pasta, such as orecchiette
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 425°F with a rack in the lower third and a baking sheet on the rack.
Carefully remove the hot baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add cauliflower and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and shake pan to distribute cauliflower in an even layer. Return baking sheet to oven and roast until deeply golden, shaking pan halfway through, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Cook until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add cabbage, shallot, thyme sprigs, and a healthy amount of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cabbage is wilted and deeply golden, about 15 minutes. Add white wine and cook until nearly evaporated, scraping the bottom of pan to deglaze. Turn off heat until ready to assemble pasta.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
Add the pasta & capers to the skillet with the cabbage and return to a medium-high heat. Add the cheese and then the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, until pasta becomes slightly saucey. Fold in the roasted cauliflower, chopped thyme, and parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately.