Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Pecorino

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Now that the holidays are over, I’m trying to eat sensibly again.  More vegetables, more whole grains, less meats.  And not eating cookies and pies for breakfast, you know what I mean?

I generally find it difficult to incorporate vegetables into my meals during the colder months.  In the summer, there is a wide variety of fresh vegetables readily available, which makes it easier for me to quickly whip up a salad for lunch and dinner.  It’s been getting pretty cold in this neck of the woods, so I prefer something heartier that warms me up and leaves me satiated after eating it.  If you’re in the same boat, this is the recipe for you.

In a fit of what-should-I-eat-for-dinner(?) desperation (nary a snack in sight), and halfway through ordering from Seamless, I realized that I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be used up soon.  I couldn’t just eat cauliflower for dinner, so I decide to add some pasta and toasted breadcrumbs to the dish to make it more wholesome and substantial.  If you have whole wheat pasta on hand, that’s even better!

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Roasting cauliflower gives it a sweet and nutty flavor which, standing alone, makes it a great side dish.  I actually ate a fair bit of it and enjoyed it even without the pasta.  I’m all about vegetables with a crunch.

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Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Pecorino (serves 4 to 6)

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cauliflower head, cut into florets
1 lb dried penne
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 tbsps capers, drained and patted dry
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup plain or seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat an oven to 400°F.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and garlic.  Pour the mixture over cauliflower florets and toss gently.  Roast cauliflower on a baking sheet, stirring every 10 minutes, until the florets appear browned on the edges and tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes total.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, based on the package instructions.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the roasted cauliflower and cheese, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Warm remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the capers and fry for about 30 seconds.  Add red pepper flakes, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper, and saute until golden brown, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

To serve, sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta and cauliflower, and top with additional cheese if desired.

*Cauliflower is best roasted on a baking sheet instead of a glass baking dish.

*I didn’t add cheese the first time I made it, but felt that the dish could have benefited from something a little sharper, like Pecorino Romano.  If you’re not a fan of Pecorino, feel free to substitute with a milder cheese like Parmesan or Grana Padano.

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