We eat a lot more pasta at this house than you might guess from just looking at this blog. Like at least once a week. And yet, this post is one of only two devoted to that starchy comfort that easily loans itself to pantry-cooking. I usually stock some type of spelt/whole grain noodle or brown rice penne in my little grain/cereal drawer. One of those two options with red sauce is both my man’s and my own comfort food of choice. If we’re having pasta for a nicer mid-week dinner though, I’ll be doing a light olive oil-based sauce with cooked vegetables, chickpeas, pine nut parm, greens etc., just to make it more special (is it normal to feel guilty if a dinner doesn’t take longer than 15 minutes to make?). Also wine. Wine makes everything special.
People seem to jump to pasta often for vegetarian mains because of its simplicity, heft, and diversity. I had a vegan friend who eventually developed a distaste for it because, at the time, pasta was one of the few options she could partake in when dining out. I think establishments have expanded their horizons a bit since, but I also think she was a bit crazy to give it up entirely (jokes).
A little while ago, the good people at America’s Test Kitchen sent me a preview copy of their upcoming collection, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. I started to really psych myself up because I’ve been a fan of their work with Cook’s Illustrated for a long time. It’s the only food magazine I purchase with frequency. I like the quietly badass/no-frills philosophy that focuses on well-tested, practical knowledge that anyone can put to use in their own kitchen. The anticipation over a plant-based collection from ATK (finally!) was evident when I excitedly ripped the packing envelope one snowy afternoon. As I flipped through chapters focusing on hearty mains, soups, pasta + noodles, rice, grains, sides, salads, beans + soy, snacks, flatbreads, and more, I noticed a lot of the recipes that were jumping out at me were mostly comprised of items I already had in my pantry. I love when vegetarian recipes focus on building flavour with accessible, everyday ingredients, and this book really seems to understand that.
A majority of the recipes are quite streamlined as well. Minimal fuss and an avoidance of extra steps is a very attractive quality with vegetarian recipes, at least for me. There’s a tendency of plant-based cuisine to require more chopping, soaking, marinating etc. before the cooking even begins. I get emails about this deterrent surprisingly often and always try to keep it in mind. There’s also a clear aim to build flavour with a select handful of ingredients, rather than needlessly complicating a dish with extra accessories that might get lost in the shuffle. For someone who cooks a lot and develops recipes for a living, there’s plenty of inspiration in these pages. With this book, ATK’s cooks and testers seem to have the same end-goal in mind as me: make plant-based food appealing to every kind of eater. They’ve handily succeeded. I think you’re all going to love it.
So onto today’s recipe… I chose this one because I had a giant head of cauliflower in the fridge and a pasta with that and roasted garlic sounded too cozy to pass on. We’re in a proper cold snap and it called to me from the page. I made a few minor changes (omitted the parmesan, subbed arugula for parsley), but kept the lightly sweet and full-flavoured roasted garlic and lemon sauce completely intact. I honestly can’t wait to make it again. You just kind of mash some roasted garlic cloves with olive oil, lemon and chili flakes, thin the mixture out with starchy pasta water, and toss it with hot pasta and roasted cauliflower. Simple, but very high impact, which is my favourite kind of recipe.
And for even more good news, America’s Test Kitchen is letting me give away a copy of The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook!
One (1) winner will receive a copy of the book once it’s released (March 1st). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me which 5 ingredients you always try to have in your pantry for easy, vegetarian/vegan meals. Mine? Fire-roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, brown basmati rice, raw almonds/almond butter, and good olive oil. Giveaway is open to American and Canadian residents only and will close February 22nd at midnight EST. I’ll pick a winner at random, so best of luck, babes :) Giveaway is now closed!
roasted garlic + cauliflower pasta with walnuts recipe (vegan + gluten free)
print the recipe here!
from America’s Test Kitchen’s forthcoming The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook
notes: ATK lists an alternative version of this pasta with broccoli and almonds as well if that catches your interest. The original recipe calls for chopped parsley, but I used handfuls of baby arugula because I happened to have it in my fridge.
2 garlic heads/bulbs, top quarter cut off to expose cloves
6 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
pinch of fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1 head cauliflower (2 pounds)
salt + pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice, plus extra
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 pound brown rice pasta, such as penne or fusilli
2-3 handfuls baby arugula
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted + chopped
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a naked baking sheet on the rack and preheat to 500 degrees F. Tear two squares of aluminum foil and place cut garlic heads in the centers. Drizzle exposed garlic tops with 1/2 tsp olive oil each. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves (if using). Wrap garlic bulbs up securely and place in the oven. Roast until garlic is browned and mushy/tender, about 40 minutes.
While garlic is roasting, trim the cauliflower leaves and the extra bit of stalk at the bottom. Cut the head right down the middle, from top to bottom. From there, cut each half into 4 wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower wedges with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Remove the pre-heated baking sheet from the oven and carefully lay the cauliflower wedges onto the surface, leaving some space around each piece. You should hear sizzling. Roast cauliflower until tender and well-browned, about 25 minutes (I flipped mine halfway).
Once slightly cooled, transfer cauliflower to a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces. Unwrap roasted garlic and squeeze cloves out into a small bowl. Mash roasted garlic with a fork to make a smooth puree. Whisk in the lemon juice, pepper flakes, some salt + pepper, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Set aside.
Cook brown rice pasta according to package directions with a fat pinch of salt in the water. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining. Once drained, return cooked pasta to the pot. Add chopped cauliflower, garlic sauce, arugula, extra lemon juice to taste, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water. Add more cooking water as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Serve pasta with handfuls of chopped walnuts on top and extra chili flakes.