Mark Bittman’s Pasta With Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, about 1 pound
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound penne, fusilli or other cut pasta
1 cup coarse bread crumbs.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the cauliflower, and divide it into florets. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water, and boil the cauliflower in it until it is tender but not mushy. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the cauliflower and set it aside. When it is cool enough to handle, chop it roughly into small pieces.

2. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium-low heat, saute garlic in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden. Be careful with the garlic: it should not brown in the oil but just begin to color (to ”blond,” as the Italians say). Start cooking pasta in same pot and same water as was used for the cauliflower.

3. When the garlic is ready, add the cauliflower and bread crumbs to skillet, and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally. When pasta is just about done — it should be two or three minutes short of the way you like it — drain it, reserving about a cup of cooking liquid.

4. Add pasta to skillet containing the cauliflower, and toss with a large spoon until they are well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with just enough pasta water to keep the mixture moist but not soupy. When the mixture is hot and the pasta is tender and nicely glazed, serve.

Yield: 3 or 4 servings.

Optional variations:
1. Substitute broccoli, kale or collards for the cauliflower.
2. When you’re simmering the garlic, add anchovies, capers, pine nuts or dried red pepper flakes — some or all of them.
3. Toss crumbled cooked sausage meat or chopped shrimp into the garlic mixture along with the bread crumbs.
4. Garnish with chopped parsley, basil or grated Parmesan.


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