This easy broiled cauliflower pasta dish combines enticing flavors and textures to create a simple, satisfying, vegetarian weeknight meal.
My love for cauliflower knows no bounds and broiling is my favorite way to prepare it. You can use broiled cauliflower so many ways: as a topping for homemade hummus or tartines, a garnish for soups and salads, or a mix in for fried rice and risotto.
But my favorite way to use broiled cauliflower has to be—of course!—pasta. In this recipe for Lemony Broiled Cauliflower Pasta, the cauliflower soaks in the flavors of shallots and garlic while broiling, and the delicious morcels are then folded with spinach (nutritious!), lemon zest and juice (zesty!), Pecorino Romano cheese (tangy!), crushed red pepper (punchy!), and toasted almonds (crunchy!) This recipe is a simple, satisfying, vegetarian weeknight meal that would also do well as a primi piatti in a more elaborate, weekend meal.
Helpful Tips for Making Broiled Cauliflower Pasta
No rigatoni in the pantry? Use any other type of short pasta
Short pasta works better in this dish because it allows to create perfect bites with the cauliflower florets and baby spinach—all components being roughly the same size. If you don’t have rigatoni on hand, you can use penne, fusilli, or any other type of short pasta. However, I would steer clear of small pasta such as macaroni, because the difference in size between the pasta and the garnishes would make the dish difficult to eat.
Serve this broiled cauliflower pasta as a cold pasta salad
This simple pasta dish is just as delicious hot as it is cold. If you plan on serving this broiled cauliflower pasta as a cold dish, let the pasta and cauliflower cool completely before you mix in the baby spinach. This will prevent it from wilting and keep a fresh, “salady” look to the dish. Refer to the recipe, below, for more tips and instructions to turn this broiled cauliflower pasta into a cold pasta salad.
Throw in proteins to create an even heartier dish
I like to serve this broiled cauliflower pasta as a vegetarian dish, but sometimes I throw in leftover rotisserie chicken if I have some on hand. Cooked shrimp, salmon, and even lobster would all be delicious in this pasta dish, too!
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Lemony Broiled Cauliflower Pasta
- 2 cups cauliflower florets (about half a medium-sized head)
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt, or fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 6 oz dry rigatoni pasta, or another variety of short pasta, such as penne
- ½ lemon, finely grated zest and juice (about 1 tsp / 5 ml zest and 1/4 cup / 60 ml juice)
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower florets, shallots, garlic, olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper. Spread the cauliflower mixture over the baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is browned in spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time. Just before you drain the pasta, scoop out 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
- Return the pot you used to cook the pasta over medium heat. Add the pasta, the reserved pasta cooking water, and the lemon zest and juice. Toss to combine and bring to a simmer. Gradually sprinkle in the Pecorino Romano, stirring as you go to melt and incorporate the cheese. Mix in the broiled cauliflower, baby spinach, and basil. Keep cooking and stirring just until everything’s hot and the baby spinach is wilted.
- SERVING: Serve hot broiled cauliflower pasta garnished with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese and toasted almonds.
- STORAGE: This broiled cauliflower pasta keeps and reheats very well. Simply store leftovers in an airtight container and reheat for about 1 minute in the microwave before serving. You can also reheat the pasta in a skillet over medium heat, adding a tablespoon or two of water to help loosen it.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: Substitute ¼ cup (15 g) nutritional yeast for the Pecorino Romano cheese.
- HOW TO SERVE AS A PASTA SALAD: Broil the cauliflower as indicated. Cook the pasta and skip saving the pasta water. Once the cauliflower and pasta are done, transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely. Once cool, mix in an extra 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive, then add in the lemon zest and juice, grated pecorino romano, baby spinach, and fresh basil. Season with freshly ground black pepper, toss to combine, and serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. I highly recommend bringing the pasta salad back to room temperature at least 1 hour before serving.