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.
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.
A little while ago, I received a copy of a new book from America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. The anticipation over a plant-based collection from ATK 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.
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 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.
Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Pasta with Walnuts
- 2 heads garlic, top quarter cut off to expose cloves
- 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ pinchteaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 head cauliflower (2 lbs)
- sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 lb short brown rice pasta, such as penne or fusilli
- 2-3 handfuls baby arugula
- 1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
- From America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook
- 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.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a naked baking sheet on the rack and preheat to 500°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.