Romanesco Cauliflower Pasta with Olives, Capers, and Parsley
A simple and flavorful romanesco cauliflower pasta with parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic, and bursts of saltiness from sliced kalamata olives and briny capers. Feel free to substitute seasonal romanesco with regular cauliflower to make this dish year round. Serve as a vegetarian-friendly main course or side dish!
1largehead of romanescoor cauliflower (roughly 1.5 to 2 lbs)
2heaping tablespoonsextra virgin olive oildivided
freshly ground black pepper
3large cloves garlicfinely chopped
½cuppitted kalamata olivessliced lengthwise
large pinch red pepper flakes
1heaping cupItalian parsley leaves, choppedplus more for garnishing
1lbdried linguini or fettuccine pasta
grated parmigiano-reggiano cheesefor serving
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) with a rack in the center position.
Trim and discard the base of the romanesco and cut it in half, then quarters. Standing each quarter upright and holding your knife at an angle, trim the florets from the core. Most of the florets will fall off or can be separated easily with your fingers (you want the florets to be no larger than an inch in diameter); cut any larger florets in half with a knife to match the size of the other florets.
Place the florets on a half sheet pan and toss with 1 heaping tablespoon olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Distribute the florets cut-side down into an even layer, making sure that the florets aren't touching one another if possible. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway, or until caramelized and tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously, or until fragrant. Do not allow it to gain color. Add the kalamata olives, capers, and red pepper flakes to the pan, and sauté for an additional minute or until warm. Taste for salt and pepper. Add half of the parsley to the skillet and keep the mixture warm - off the heat - as you cook the pasta.
Boil the pasta until it is al dente, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the kalamata olive and caper mixture and roasted cauliflower. Toss the mixture together gently, adding the remaining chopped parsley, and a touch of extra virgin olive oil and some reserved pasta water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately and garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese as desired.
Tips for Success:
Romanesco (which also goes by the name of Roman cauliflower) is in season from late fall to late winter. While romanesco will lend this dish a certain flair, it can be trickier to come by.Feel free to substitute it with regular cauliflower. The resulting pasta, while not quite as striking, will be very similar in taste!