spicy penne with bread crumbs, asiago and cauliflower
So, let’s start this off with the admission that in general, I positively detest anything resembling those baked ziti casseroles that people bring to potlucks. Feel free to prove me wrong if anyone has some mindblowing take on it that is not dry and unimaginative, but thus far I have never seen anything to make me a fan. So I was initially skeptical when I saw a recipe for pasta baked with tomatoes and cheese, but it was one of those moments where you don’t know what to cook for dinner and then by some alignment of the cooking stars you find that you actually have everything you need for a recipe, and then you just have to make it. And the idea of the breadcrumbs, cheese, cauliflower and perhaps some spiciness were enough to convince me that maybe I could give this a chance.
And it was goood.
Penne with Bread Crumbs, Cheese, and Spicy Cauliflower
Adapted from seriouseats.com
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 a carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 14.5 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 pound pasta (we like penne, but use whatever you like!)
2 T chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated pecorino or asiago
1/4 cup panko
2 T butter, melted
Get a large pot of water set up for your pasta, and let it come to a boil while you get started. Heat oil to medium-high in a very large skillet (we used a wok!) and add your onion, garlic, celery and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Then toss in salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, followed by all the cauliflower. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so the cauliflower starts to soften. When the water in your pasta pot boils, throw the pasta in and cook until just pre-al dente; drain.
Dump your can of tomatoes into the skillet and stir, breaking up the tomatoes to release their juices. Stir it all together, reduce heat to medium low, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is soft and tender.
Drain pasta, reserving about a half cup of the pasta water. Then preheat your broiler. Add drained pasta to skillet with cauliflower, turn the heat back up to medium high, and then use the pasta water at your discretion to loosen the sauce if it needs it. Toss in your parsley and a handful of the cheese, and stir to combine. Make sure the pasta is properly al dente now, and then remove from heat.
Transfer pasta mixture to a 13×9 pan. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with bread crumbs and the remaining cheese, and stir to combine. Spread the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta, and then pop the thing under the broiler for like five minutes, just until the crumbs are cheese are starting to brown. Remove and serve!