It’s a good thing my sausage order didn’t come in this week. I planned on making this orecchiette with sausage and pesto, or maybe my eternal favorite, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Without good sausage, neither seemed appealing, so instead I turned to the half a cauliflower in the fridge. Pesto still seemed like a good idea, but I used the perfectly serviceable greens already in the house (kale and parsley) in place of basil.
What resulted was the fastest dinner I’ve made all week (exactly 45 minutes). Pasta with nicely charred cauliflower and pesto that hits all the right notes of salt, grassy herbs, and richness from the pine nuts and olive oil. I keep pine nuts in my freezer for when pesto cravings strike (and to make this salad topping – so good!), and throw them straight from there into the food processor.
- ½ a large cauliflower, or 1 whole smaller one (I used half a giant one, that clocked in at 26 oz worth after the stem was removed)
- 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette, because it was either that or lasagna noodles from the pantry. Another short pasta like penne, zitti, or fusilli would be great.)
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1 tablespoon parsley (or more if you want)
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the cauliflower into small florets about the size of your pasta. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on 2 baking sheets. This may seem like one extra pan to clean (and it is), but it is needed for truly crisped and not just steamed cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, and then toss it. If your pieces are very small check again after 5 minutes. Mine were about an inch long and done after 10 more minutes.
When you put the cauliflower in the over, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
While your water is coming up to temp, make your pesto. Using a food processor start the blade running and drop in the garlic. When you stop hearing it bounce around it will be fully chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the salt, kale, parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until they are uniformly combined, then run the machine and stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.
When your water boils add the pasta and cook according to the directions for your particular shape (or, set the timer for 7 minutes and taste every minute after for done-ness). Before draining the pasta reserve a small cup-full of the water. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add in the roasted cauliflower, pesto, and two tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir to combine, and if it seems a little dry add another tablespoon of water.
Serve with a bit of extra parm grated on top and a sprinkle of parsley.