Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic (small batch)

Monday 17 May 2021

Pasta With Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
One thing I really love and try to practice with weeknight cooking is to cook delicious food, that is quick and easy to cook.  Week days are really busy for me and I know they are for you as well.  

I don't want to have to spend hours in the kitchen, but I still want to eat delicious food.  Low faff, low mess, big taste is what I want.

That's why I was really excited to try this Milk Street Pasta with Seared Cauliflower and Garlic!  It sounded right up my alley! Quick, easy and delicious!

Milk Street Tuesday Nights 

The recipe is one I adapted from this book.  Milk Street, Tuesday Nights, by Christopher Kimball.  It is a new book which I bought for myself while I was living with my sisters.  It promised to deliver quick, easy and bold flavors fast.  

I bought my copy on Amazon, and immediately ear-marked quite a few recipes to try.

I did adapt it for a smaller household.  So my amounts are to serve two people generously. If you want a full sized recipe, you will need to go here. You won't be sorry, I promise you.


Pasta With Seared Cauliflower & Garlic

This delicious recipe draws on the flavors contained in the ever popular bagna cauda.  Bagna cauda is a sauce-like dip which hails from the Piedmont region of Italy.

One of my regrets will always be that I never got to visit Italy when I was living in the UK.  I had always wanted to go.  I love Italian food and it looks to be a beautiful country. 

My father was there when I was a child. He was in the Canadian Armed Forces and while we were stationed in Germany, he went to Sardinia to work on the aircraft there.

Pasta With Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 

This fabulous pasta dish is not only quick and easy, but incredibly delicious and there is not a scrap of meat in sight. This makes it perfect for vegetarians, well except for the anchovy fillets.  

True confession here. I left the anchovy out. I quite simply, could not find any locally.  Since we are on a strict lockdown at the moment, I am not allowed to leave my town unless its an emergency.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
I used  Worcestershire sauce in the place of the Anchovy.  It worked perfectly for me.  The flavor was excellent.  There are anchovies in Worcestershire sauce so I felt it would be the perfect substitute. I was right.

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables.  I love it in any way shape or form I can get it. I used to love it raw with dip, but alas my aging body can no longer tolerate raw cruciferous vegetables.  (I know! TMI!)

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
IN any case, I am okay so long as I at least semi-cook it.  Crispy tender works well for me and the cauliflower in this is cooked until it is crispy tender.

Not boiled or blanched, but pan seared.  Fresh cauliflower florets are seared in a hot skillet with  a bit of olive oil along with some seasoning. Just until the florets are turning golden brown and gilding on the edges.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
Then a bit of magic happens. You add garlic (plenty of delicious garlic), anchovies, rosemary, red pepper flakes and butter.

This forms the basis for a lovely sauce, that is light and fresh. Not in the least bit heavy.  But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
This delicious cauliflower pasta recipe begins by pan toasting some lovely coarsely chopped pistachio nuts.  I adore pistachios.  They are one of my favorite nuts to snack on.

I always have them in my house.  These are toasted in a bit of olive oil just until they are lightly toasted and have turned a bright green.  Try not to snack on them, or better yet, pan-toast some extra so that you can!!

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
These get set aside until a bit later, and you get on with creating the main body of the recipe. That is, cooking the pasta and that delicious cauliflower.

It suggests that you use a short pasta for this.  I used Malfalda. It is just like short,  miniature curly edged lasagna noodles. It is a perfect pasta for this recipe because it will hug all those delicious ingredients.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 
You could also use Farfalle (bow ties), campanelle (trumpet shaped frills),  Orecchiette (little ears), etc.  Any small shaped pasta that has the capacity to hug the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, you get on with making that delicious sauce. 

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 

This all goes together very quickly once you start to cook it.  That's why I like to have all of my ingredients ready to go and assembled before I start.  

In the culinary world that is called Mise En Place. (Everything in place.) I try to do that with all of my cooking. It makes a HUGE difference. Nothing gets left out and everything just runs smoother.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic 

Once the cauliflower is golden edges and crispy tender, you add the aromatics, and then a bit of the pasta cooking water.  Simple.

I am not sure how it works, but a bit of pasta water always helps to make a rich and silky sauce for most pasta dishes. It is some sort of chemistry I am sure. 

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic

The toasted pistachios add a delicious crunch to the dish, not to mention that crispy tender cauliflower. The lemon juice and the zest really brighten it up with fresh and clean flavors.

I love flat leaf parsley as well, this gets mixed with the zest and some of the toasted pistachios to make a scrumptious mixture that is scattered over top of the finished dish.  No cheese needed.  You will find quite often in Italian cooking they add toasted bread crumbs to pasta, but no cheese.

Pasta with Seared Cauliflower & Garlic

In fact toasted bread crumbs are often referred to as the poor man's cheese.  I have always enjoyed cracker crumbs or bread crumbs on top of pasta dishes.   

Altogether this is a really delicious, yet simple supper dish. Quick to make. Interesting, lush and fresh flavors, with very little effort.  I don't think you can go wrong with this.

I highly recommend! 


Pasta With Seared Cauliflower (small batch)

Pasta With Seared Cauliflower (small batch)

Yield: Serves 2 generously
Author: Marie Rayner
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 25 MinTotal time: 35 Min
Quite simply delicious. Adapted from the book entitled Milk Street, Tuesday nights. Simple ingredients done well.


  • 6 ounces of short pasta (Campanella, Mafalda, etc.) (a slight cup)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 TBS shelled, unsalted Pistachio nuts, divided
  • ½ small head of cauliflower, cored and cut into ½ inch florets
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS minced anchovy, plus 1 TBS anchovy oil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBS salted butter, divided
  • ½ TBS finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add your pasta along with 1 TBS of salt. Cook according to the package directions until just shy of being al dente. Reserve ½ cup (120ml) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta, rinse, and then set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking add ½ TBS of the oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the pistachios and cook, stirring, until they are quite fragrant and bright green. Scoop out to a small bowl.
  3. Add a further 1 TBS of oil to the pan. Heat until it shimmers over medium heat. Add half the cauliflower florets along with a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Cook, tossing and stirring until it is golden brown and crispy tender. Scoop out to a bowl, and repeat with the remaining cauliflower florets.
  4. Return all the cauliflower to the pan. Add the garlic, anchovies, anchovy oil, rosemary, red pepper flakes and 1 TBS of butter. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies have melted, and the garlic has softened. (4 – 5 minutes)
  5. Add the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Toss in the cooked pasta and the remaining TBS of butter. Cook, tossing together, until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta. (about 1 minute)
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 TBS of the pistachios and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a serving bowl.
  7. Mix the remaining pistachios, chopped parsley and the lemon zest together. Sprinkle over top and serve immediately.
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Pasta With Seared Cauliflower
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  1. How freaky is this - tonight I had planned to make Donna Hay's Cauliflower Cheat's Risotto! Are you tapping into my thoughts and spying in my pantry - LOL! I'll still do her risotto (made with orzo), but that willstill leave half the cauliflower, so I shall try this out later this week as it sounds delicious.

    I can get anchovies here, funnily enough, and I do really like them. When I first came here, I was excited to see big tins of "ansjovis" really cheap. I happily bought a tin and opened it later to make a puttanesca sauce, only to be confronted with these slimy pieces of some kind of fish in a pinkish, smelly brine. It turns out that what I'd bought was a tin of preserved sprats. Anchovies on the other hand are called "sardeller" here. Talk about confusing.

    I cook like you in that I prepare as much as I can in advance and then when I cook the dish, I have it all in place, measured out, prepped and ready to go. It makes the experience so much more enjoyable when you are organised.

    1. Anyone would think I've been looking over your shoulder and into your larder and refrigerator Marie! haha Funny how that goes! I strongly suspect I can get Anchovies at one of the larger grocery stores, but we are on lockdown at the moment and can only shop locally. So it will have to wait for another time. That risotto sounds lovely. I thought I had brought my Donna Hay books with me, but I think a whole box went missing because there is all sorts missing that I was sure I had packed! I hope you will cook this and enjoy it as much as I did! xoxo


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