My love for cauliflower knows no bounds and roasting is my favorite way to prepare it. In this recipe, the cauliflower catches the subtle aroma of shallots while roasting, and it is then combined with spinach (nutritious!), sun-dried cherry tomatoes (tangy!), lemon zest and juice (zesty!), red pepper flakes (punchy!), pecorino romano (yummy!) and topped with slivered almonds and toasted breadcrumbs (crunchy!) to produce a simple, satisfying, vegetarian weeknight meal that would also fare well as a primi piatti in a more elaborate meal.
I’m very fond of dry-packed sun dried cherry tomatoes, which I discovered in Sicily, because of their sweet but sharp taste. They are also more tender than regular dry packed sun-dried tomatoes, which can be a little too tough to be eaten without being rehydrated first. If you can’t find sun dried cherry tomatoes, use regular sun dried tomatoes packed in oil to get a similar texture.
2 cups [500 ml] cauliflower florets
2 shallots, quartered lengthwise
1 tbsp [15 ml] olive oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp [30 ml] olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp [5 ml] red pepper flakes
6 oz [170 g] dried spaghetti pasta
2 handfuls spinach, cleaned, coarsely chopped, tougher stems removed
¼ cup [125 ml] dry-packed sun dried cherry tomatoes (or regular oil-packed sun dried tomatoes), sliced thinly
½ lemon, zest and juice
¼ cup [125 ml] fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup [125 ml] pecorino romano, grated
2 tbsp [30 ml] slivered almonds, toasted
2 tbsp [30 ml] bread crumbs, toasted
Best quality extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt or fleur de sel
Preheat oven to 450°F [230°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the cauliflower florets, the chopped shallots, the olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and some freshly grated black pepper. Spread the cauliflower mixture on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflorer is tender with a bite, and golden brown in spots.
While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Save ½ cup [125 ml] pasta water, drain the pasta and reserve.
As soon the cauliflower is done, take it out of the oven and keep it close (leave it on the baking sheet). Heat 2 tbsp [30 ml] olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 minute (be careful not to burn the garlic). Lower the heat to the minimum, and add the roasted cauliflower to the pan. Mix it all together, then add the spinach and sun-dried cherry tomatoes. Sauté for a minute, just so the spinach wilts a bit. Add the lemon zest and juice, the pasta, the pasta water and half the pecorino romano cheese. Mix thoroughly to incorporate all the ingredients. Take off the heat, add the basil and toss one last time.
Serve in warm bowls, topped with the remaining pecorino romano, the almonds, the bread crumbs, a generous drizzle of best quality olive oil, and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from Jeanine Donofrio, Love & Lemons