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Meatless Monday: Spicy Cauliflower with Penne and Tossed Greens

Bold flavors abound in  Spicy Cauliflower with Penne. You won't even miss the meat.
Bold flavors abound in Spicy Cauliflower with Penne. You won't even miss the meat.
m. arseneau photo

If the buffalo wings and nachos are sitting like lead in your stomach, along with the grim football news, you’ll want to lighten things up for a Meatless Monday. Manchester area Market Baskets have been offering glorious cauliflower, and today’s recipe, Spicy Cauliflower with Penne and Tossed Greens, makes use of this often-neglected vegetable. Area Stop& Shops, as well as Market Baskets are having great deals on pasta as well. Olivia’s Organics coupons are still kicking around and they are a fantastic, no-work way to get your greenies. They come in a myriad of interesting combinations.

For this dish, cauliflower florets are sautéed in olive oil with red pepper flakes, garlic and anchovy paste (please don‘t squeal), then tossed with penne pasta and cheese.

I beg you do not omit the anchovy paste: It literally melts when heated and provides a salty richness that simply cannot be obtained any other way. Tubes of paste are available in all good stores, and it will keep for weeks in the fridge. Since you will not be fiddling with oily, shiny, slithery fillets (which I rather enjoy …that and seeing them all nestled together in an orderly line), you may be tempted to squirt anchovy paste into lots of your dishes, which prompted Clarissa Dickson-Wright to quip to her anchovy-loving co-star, Jennifer Paterson (‘Two Fat Ladies‘): “Yes, I was surprised not to find them in your coffee cake.”

This recipe makes a robust meatless entrée that can stand on its own with the addition of a simple tossed salad. But if your Mondays aren’t meatless, pair the dish with a mild uncomplicated protein such as grilled chicken or pork.


1 head cauliflower separated into florets (chop  the stalks for added crunch in salads)

5 tblsp. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tblsp. anchovy paste

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ tsp. black pepper, salt to taste

3 tblsp. fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tblsp. dried)

1 pound penne pasta

½ cup pecorino romano cheese

¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs (toss seasoned breadcrumbs with a splash of olive oil to ensure a golden crust)

Lightly oil a 9”x13” dish. Bring salted pasta water to boil in large pot. Into a large saute pan over high heat,combine oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovy paste. Cook until garlic starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and basil and cook, stirring, until florets begin to brown, about 4 minutes.

Add pasta to water and cook until not-quite-al dente (you will be cooking the pasta again in the oven).

Add 1 cup of pasta water to the florets, turn heat to medium and cook until sauce thickens slightly. Taste for seasonings and add salt/pepper.

Preheat broiler.

Drain pasta well and return to pot. Add cauliflower sauce and ½ of the cheese. Toss well and put in baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.

Place under the broiler 5-6 minutes until topping is golden.


Coming up next: Hump Day Helpers: Baked Herbed Chicken with Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo


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