Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pasta with Cauliflower Ragu

So I got home late last night from a two-week trip to Florida. I spent the day in recovery-mode. I wasn’t personally recovering from anything; I was helping the house to recover. The guys did a pretty admirable job while I was gone this time. My son Joel called me a few days ago to tell me that he had just used Formula 409 on the countertops. I was impressed. Last month I left town for a week and they never once washed the kitchen table. This time I even came home to clean bathrooms. Wow! But as any mother out there knows, what the guys call clean isn’t always what we call clean. I put on my favorite Jack Johnson CD and got to work. Before I knew it, it was late afternoon and I hadn’t yet made it to the grocery store. The guys had started out heating up things like frozen Buffalo wings and chimichangas from Costco for dinner, but as the days passed, they either ran out or got sick of it. They’d been surviving on cold cereal for several days. I needed to cook up a nice, healthy meal for them. I looked in the fridge. Not much, but there was a head of cauliflower I had bought before I left that still actually looked good. And earlier in the day, as I had been polishing furniture, I had picked up the latest Reader’s Digest and flipped through it. I had seen a recipe for Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu. I had been intrigued because it calls for the entire head of cauliflower, including the leaves, the core, and the stalks. Who knew you could eat the whole thing? We always have pasta on hand, and I had grated Parmesan in the freezer. Hmm… With just a few changes, I could make this work.

I did make it work, and it was delicious. (I didn’t tell them about the leaves, the core and the stalks.) Now it’s time to tackle the laundry.

Pasta with Cauliflower Ragu

1 medium cauliflower

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped small

1½ tsp chopped garlic

sea salt

1½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

a little more olive oil

Kosher salt

1 lb. penne pasta*

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup coarse, fresh bread crumbs, sautéed in 1 T olive oil until golden**

1 tsp Italian seasoning***

Cut the cauliflower in half. Remove the leaves and cut out the core. Reserve the leaves and the core. Cut cauliflower into small florets, reserving the stalks. Chop up the core, the leaves and the stalks. Heat the ¼ cup olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic, chopped onion, and the chopped core, leaves and stalks. Season with sea salt and cook over medium heat for about three minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about twenty minutes. Add florets, crushed red pepper flakes and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then turn down heat to a medium simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for twenty to twenty-five minutes longer. In the meantime, heat water for pasta. Add Kosher salt to water. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve some of the water as you drain the pasta. When the cauliflower ragu is done, add some extra olive oil and season to taste with sea salt. Remove from heat. Add pasta and about ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the ragu. Stir (over low heat) to coat the pasta. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. Top with bread crumbs and serve.

*I cooked whole grain pasta for myself and white pasta for everybody else.

**I put a couple of slices of whole grain bread (don't tell) in the toaster and then crumbled them up. I heated 1 T olive oil in a skillet, added the bread crumbs and tossed them around until they were crispy.

***The original recipe called for minced fresh rosemary. I didn’t have any or I would have used it instead of the dried Italian seasoning.

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