Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Garlic and feta cheese liven up this easy main-course dish

Cauliflower and olives. Can they really get along?

Yup, turns out they’re a sensational together, particularly over pasta. Liven up their pairing with some garlic and feta, and a splash of quickly-made tomato sauce. Add a salad and maybe some crusty bread or garlic toast, and dinner is served.

This dish is easy enough to make on a busy weekday. But it’s tasty enough for guests too.

Two recipes in one. We like that.



Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Recipe: Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Although cauliflower’s peak season is autumn, you can find it in abundance throughout the year. Lately, we’ve been seeing excellent cauliflower at our local grocery store, and at some of the best prices in recent months. So of course it’s been hopping into our shopping cart.

We adapted this dish from a recipe in Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest.

This dish is easy to make, though there are a few steps to juggle. First, make a quick tomato sauce. While that’s simmering, sauté the cauliflower until it’s soft (or use leftover roast cauliflower—see Notes.) Combine the cauliflower with the tomato sauce, add olives, and serve over freshly cooked pasta, topped with feta cheese. Done.

Prep time for this recipe is about 20 minutes. Cooking time is no more than 40 minutes.

This dish serves 4. Leftovers keep well for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt; see Notes)
  • 2 or 3 pinches of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or to taste; may substitute marjoram)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
For the cauliflower and pasta:
  • ½ medium head of cauliflower (about a pound)
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste (about ¾ teaspoon kosher salt for the cauliflower, plus a tablespoon for the pasta water; see Notes)
  • ¾ pound dried pasta (something with a sturdy shape, like rigatoni or farfalle; see Notes)
  • 2 to 3 pinches red pepper flakes (or to taste; optional)
  • a handful of pitted Kalamata olives (15 or so; can substitute another variety if you prefer)
  • 2 to 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Procedure

For the tomato sauce:
  1. Peel and chop the onion into dice of ½ inch or so; set aside. Peel and mince the garlic or slice it thinly; set aside.
  2. Place a 3- or 4-quart saucepan on medium stovetop heat (use a wide-bottomed pan). When hot, add the olive oil. When it’s heated (it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onion. Season with salt to taste. Sauté until the onion is translucent but not brown (5 to 8 minutes).
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and oregano; cook for 15 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cook down a bit (much of the liquid should evaporate). It’s done when it tastes good to you.
For the cauliflower and pasta:
  1. Cut a medium-sized (2 pound or so) head of cauliflower in half, and remove the core (reserve one of the halves for another use). Place the cut side of the cauliflower half flat on a cutting board and cut it into slices of ¼ inch or a bit thicker. Set aside.
  2. Peel the garlic and mince it or cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large frying pan (at least 10 inches in diameter) over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the olive oil. When it’s heated (it’ll shimmer), add the cauliflower. Add salt to taste. Turn the heat down just a bit, and cook the cauliflower until it starts to soften (5 to 7 minutes), stirring from time to time. (You can partially cover the frying pan to speed up cooking, and we often do. But note that if you keep the frying pan uncovered, the cauliflower will turn a bit crispy, which is a nice texture for this dish.)
  4. Meanwhile, place a large pot of water (at least 4 quarts) on another stovetop burner (for cooking the pasta). When the water comes to a boil, add salt (we use a tablespoon, but adjust to your taste). Add the pasta, and cook according to package directions (usually 7 or 8 minutes) until it’s al dente.
  5. Back to the cauliflower: After 5 to 7 minutes of cooking (see Step 3), add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender, tasty, and a bit browned. At this point, stir in the olives and add the tomato sauce. Adjust seasoning if necessary and simmer the mixture over low heat until the pasta finishes cooking (probably just another couple of minutes).
  6. When the pasta is done (Step 4), drain it into a colander. Pour the drained pasta into the cauliflower/tomato mixture and stir to combine. 
  7. Dish the pasta and sauce onto serving plates. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over each serving. Garnish with chopped parsley (if desired), and serve.
Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Notes
  • Feel free to substitute your favorite homemade tomato sauce for the one we describe. Or use a commercial sauce, if you prefer. You’ll need about 1½ to 2 cups (to taste).
  • For this dish, we like to cook cauliflower as the recipe directs (we use lots of garlic—it adds wonderful flavor). But if you have leftover cauliflower on hand, particularly roast cauliflower, you could use that. Simply warm it in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Then add the seasoning, olives, and tomato sauce, and finally stir in the cooked pasta.
  • We like to use a pasta with a sturdy shape. Rigatoni, farfalle, fusilli, penne, shells—they’re all good. You could increase the amount of pasta to 16 ounces if you prefer.
  • Kalamata olives come from the Greek city of the same name. Their flavor is particularly nice with cauliflower. With that said, you can substitute almost any olive that you fancy.
  • Feta cheese is excellent for this dish (it goes particularly well with Kalamata olives). But you could substitute parmesan if you prefer.
  • We like to use parsley as a garnish on this dish—it adds a pop of color and a touch of flavor. If you want even more flavor, you could mince about a quarter cup of parsley and mix it in with the cauliflower when you add the olives.
  • You could also substitute basil or mint for the parsley.
  • We use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Pasta with Cauliflower and Olives

Spring Chickens

“Yum, springtime comfort food,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Great for this in-between weather we’re having.”

“This dish puts a spring in my step,” I said.

“Maybe we should take a spring break from these puns,” said Mrs K R.

“Like a joke cease-fire?” I said. “Sounds like you’re extending an olive branch.”

“I thought you’d spring at that offer,” said Mrs K R. “But I guess not.”

“I take it as a challenge,” I said. “It makes me spring into action!”

“Well, olive none of that,” said Mrs K R. “I could get feta up with this.”

Better cheese it. I don’t want cauliflower ear.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Pasta Puttanesca
Pasta with Quick Tomato and Bacon Sauce
Pasta Caprese
BLT Pasta with Goat Cheese
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Pasta alla Norma
Pesto Pasta
Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta
Or check out the index for more recipes

118 comments:

  1. I think it is a great combination that Cauliflower and olives. In addition with garlic and feta it's even better. Yummy recipe, John. Thanks for the idea.

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    1. Hi Ray, this is a terrific combo! One of the best pastas we've made in quite some time. Definitely a winner! Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I don't think I had tried the combination of cauliflower with pasta. This recipe looks so simple and easy. I am sure it tastes delicious!

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    1. Hi Shibi, the cauliflower/pasta combo does sound a bit odd. But it SO works. Truly good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. The very first time I tried pasta with cauliflower, I was hooked! Who knew? Pasta cauliflower are made for each other and now with these delicious additions, I can imagine it's even better. The one I make is a Mario Batali recipe, garlicky, sautéed cauliflower tossed with lots of cheese and pasta, it is SO good.
    I like the addition of feta and the olives, nice way to freshen up a heavy pasta dish. Love it!
    I can't stop laughing at your conversation at the end :)

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, we do enjoy writing those conversations. :-) And really enjoy eating this dish -- really good combo of flavors. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. We enjoy pasta very much, as well as olives and this sounds like a delicious recipes. I like the addition of cauliflower and changing the parsley to basil. Thanks for sharing. A new dish to try.

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    1. Hi SG, the basil version is awesome! We made this one with parsley because we don't have basil in the garden at the moment. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  5. This looks great, I cannot wait to try!

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    1. Hi Melynda, you'll love it! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Hi, John...this looks delicious and packed with flavor! :)

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    1. Hi Pat, this dish has incredible flavor! It's becoming one of our "regular" recipes! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Beautiful salad and sounds delicious too. I just happen to have needed some cauliflower inspiration John...thanks!

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    1. Hi Barb, this is good stuff! I may make it for dinner again tonight. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Hi John , this dish looks so deliciously tasty and good . Never thought to combine cauliflower and pasta together , love them both and the olives will give the dish a boost . Thanks John , great dish . :-)

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    1. Hi Nee, this is wonderful! Such a nice flavor combo. And pretty easy to make -- which always works for us. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. This pasta sounds just so full of flavour and deliciousness.

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    1. Hi Rahul, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Nice and filling pasta comfort dish :) I like everything about this dish. Thanks John.

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    1. Hi Amira, this really is a delightful dish. Truly terrific flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. We love all the components of this lovely dish. This is perfect for the time of year. Thanks for sharing an inspiring recipe. --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, this is such a fun dish -- just loaded with flavor. We're in love with it! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. What a perfect dish - so simple yet full of flavor. I love that cookbook. The only thing missing is eating this dish whole in Italy.

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    1. Hi VIcki, isn't that a great cookbook? GIves one loads of ideas. Not to mention really good recipes! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Cauliflower is always a hit in my house too. Love the idea of adding it to pasta.

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    1. Hi Laura, cauliflower combines SO well with pasta. Love that combo! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Quite a few recipes combine both cauliflower and tomato sauce -- especially Indian and Italian ones. Olives and pasta indeed sound like a good addition. Olives also go well with broccoli, a cousin of cauliflower.

    When I want cauliflower to be cooked until tender and also a bit brown and crisped, I pre-cook it in the microwave and then just toss it in the hot pan with oil or butter. This also avoids the release of icky cabbage-like aromas which sometimes happens when you over-fry it.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Mae, Indian cauliflower recipes are awesome! I know too well that icky cabbage aroma! This cooks briefly enough that it isn't a problem, but the microwave trick is a good one. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Have never added cauliflower to pasta. Now sure why, but you should make it look good! Love all the ingredients of this pasta dish and the fact that you didn't drown it in tomato sauce, but rather left it a lighter sauce as to not kill the other ingredients. Always love having a new pasta recipe to experiment with. Thanks John!

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    1. Hi MJ, you can add even less tomato that we suggest if you want. This is one of those recipes that's fun to play with. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Cauliflower and pasta? That's a new one to me, John. You would think I would have tried it before. After all, I think nothing of combining pasta and brocolli or any selection of veggies. What a GREAT idea!

    Cauliflower has been very reasonably priced here too, I better get me some quick! The saltiness of the olives probably adds a wonderful flavor too. Sure is a keeper!

    Thanks so much for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, the olives really work well in this dish. Love them with cauliflower! Thanks for the comment.

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  17. I can so imagine cauliflower and olives together, the cauliflower is bland enough. And now that is it no longer 7$ a head (insane) it can be affordable again. Really nice dish and recipe, thanks!

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    1. Hi Evelyne, cauliflower has been really expensive all winter. Now, it's pretty cheap. So we've been eating a ton! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Nice Nice.. never ever thought of adding cauliflower to pasta.. I've seen it in mac and cheese, but not pasta. Love olives, always!

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    1. Hi Honey, aren't olives wonderful? And SO good with cauliflower! Thanks for the comment.

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  19. It is so cold and dreary here today and a bowl full of this is sounding might good. Olive take it!

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    1. HI Abbe, rainy here today. We're probably making this for dinner again tonight! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Cauliflower and olives is a combo that my tastebuds have experienced, but never cauliflower and pasta. Weird I never thought to do that. The cooler weather has me preparing quick and delicious feeds like this one, I absolutely see this dish in my near future. :)

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    1. Hi Anna, this is a great dish when the evenings are cool! Enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I still haven't tried cauliflower with pasta...I know it's been really popular lately. I guess I want to see if the trend sticks. ;) The dish looks beautiful. I might just have to finally do the cauliflower/pasta pairing now.

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    1. Hi Pamela, cauliflower and pasta is good. Cauliflower and olives is wonderful! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Ah, springtime in your neck of the woods... and a beautiful dish to celebrate! Enjoy!

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    1. Hi Lizzy, it's rainy here today and a bit chilly, so not so much like spring. But yes, it's here! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Yes- this recipe has everything: salty (feta cheese), sweet (tomatoes)and spice(chilli). I'll be over for dinner soon!

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    1. Hi Fran, you'll love this! And I'm making it for dinner again tonight, so there will be plenty for you. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Hi John,
    I am so glad I saw this post. Was looking forward to your goodies today. I have been using cauliflower with pasta for many years. My mom always used this combo. She taught me a dish that uses cauliflower with spaghetti, oil, garlic, and anchovies, topped with grated cheese. A great dish for meatless meals. Your dish looks so good..I would love to try this one for sure. Love all of your ingredients and especially the feta cheese, with the olives. Yummy! Thanks for sharing and all of your info. Have a great week dear friend...
    Hugs Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, cauliflower and pasta are a wonderful combo, aren't they? I've done olives with pasta lots of times, but this is the first time I've combined pasta, cauliflower, and olives. Super combo! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Thank you for sharing such a delicious recipe. Can't wait to try out this combo! YUMMY!

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    1. Hi Kushi, this is wonderful -- you'll love it! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. My first time to see Pasta with cauliflower and I love it!

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    1. Hi Peachy, it's a great combo! Definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. THIS DISH with spaghetti squash or zoodles - YES PLEASE. Cauliflower and Olives are so dang good. And now I am really hungry. I wish I had cauliflower to munch on!

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    1. Hi GiGI, really like the idea of squash of some sort with this dish. Great idea! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Love this pasta dish--the addition of olives AND cauliflower make this unique and, I'm certain, delicious!!! Great easy meal!!!

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    1. Hi Liz, olives pair so well with cauliflower. We need to see them together more than we do. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. This is an excellent combination of robust flavours. Olive all of this thanks John. Perfect for our Autumn weather too :D

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    1. Hi Merryn, :-) This is a great dinner for cool nights! Thanks for the comment.

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  30. This is pure comfort and deliciousness in a plate.

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    1. Hi Denise, it is, it is! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Oh, yum. I love pasta and cauliflower. This is perfect.

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    1. Hi Lux, it's a great combo, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. This is my type of pasta completely paired with my taste buds!

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    1. Hi Katerina, I think our taste buds must be similar! We love this too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Ahh, I could get on board with the cauliflower and feta in this! In fact, that reminds me that I need to grab both on my next trip to the store, and I have pasta on the shelf--excited to try this!

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    1. HI Ala, this is such a good combo of flavors. We liked it so much, I made it again last night! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. I just got back from a trip back home to Texas. It was so warm and beautiful there and the wildflowers were everywhere. Maybe this recipe will make me feel a bit better about the cold and snow here in Colorado. Pasta and olives always lift my spirits. Thanks for this recipe.

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    1. Hi Karen, Texas must be so warm and sunny at this time of the year! Don't worry, Colorado soon will be too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. John, this is a beautiful dish incorporating some of our favorite flavors with our favorite pasta shapes. My husband definitely prefers "shapes" rather than "long" pastas -- so I just made some spaghetti while he was out of town! :D What a great way to use cauliflower.

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    1. Hi Jean, isn't this a great way to use cauliflower? Great tasting pasta! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Yum -- I bet this is good hot or cold, too. Cauliflower is definitely having a moment, isn't it? But will it supplant kale? ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I don't think anything can supplant kale! Although cauliflower is worthy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. This is such a nice and healthy pasta dish John...I love the slightly crispy cauliflower...my husband will love this dish.
    Hope you are having a great week :)

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    1. Hi Juliana, this really is a nice dish -- tons of flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  38. Wow, who would have thought? I love inventive new combinations of ingredients and this is definitely one of those. It looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Chris, isn't this a neat dish? Cauliflower and olives are just made for each other. Thanks for the comment.

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  39. LOVE this dish, John! I think cauliflower is so under rated. It's delicious and versatile. So many things you can do with it...and this recipe shows that perfectly! What a nice, easy, weeknight meal. And as always...I'm grinning bigtime at your conversation with Mrs. KR. Too cute! : )

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    1. Hi Anne, we do like those conversations. :-) And like you, love this dish! Total flavor. :-) Good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Yes I can see cauliflower and briny olives getting along famously. I can't keep cauliflower and salty anchovies apart and I similarities in the pairings. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, capers go well with cauliflower, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Yep. This is my kind of pasta. Love every single ingredient.

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    1. Hi Pam, isn't this nice? Enjoy! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. I would have never thought to add cauliflower but it makes perfect sense! I love everything about this pasta dish - the colors, textures and flavor all speak to me. Have a lovely weekend!

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    1. Hi Tricia, this is SUCH a good dish! Just tons of flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Hi John, I bet this is delicious, I've had cauliflower and pasta together before and I thought it was a match made in heaven, adding the olives was genius.

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    1. Hi Cheri, cauliflower and olives really are a great combo, aren't they? And so terrific with pasta! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. I can't resist a beautiful head of cauliflower, nor a scoop of shiny olives from the olive bar. With that said, I'd love to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing John.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, those olive bars are great, aren't they? That's where we usually buy olives! And did so for this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I adore anything with a Mediterranean twist. You have all my favorite ingredients in one dish!

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    1. HI Kristi, don't you love these flavors? Such a satisfying dish! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I love combination of the cauliflower and olives with the pasta. Sounds delicious. Love simple dishes for during the busy week.

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    1. Hi Dawn, this is such a nice dish! Very easy, and superb flavor. Winner! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Olives and feta are always great with cauliflower. It is such a well balanced dish, with all the ingredients coming together in perfect harmony!

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    1. Hi Ansh, this is indeed a harmonious dish -- perfect word for it! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Wow thats a colourful pasta dish, reminds me of spring season eventhough were in the middle of autumn.

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    1. Hi Raymund, this works for fall, too. :-) In fact cauliflower -- at least in the US -- is at its peak then. Thanks for the comment.

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  49. This has my name written all over it! I love all these ingredients. The feta and olives sound so good with the cauliflower.

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    1. Hi Lisa, this is a super dish. Feta, olives, and cauliflower work so well together! Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Olives and cauliflower sound great, a little bit of bite with the mild heartiness of cauliflower would be delish!

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    1. Hi Mary, this is such a delightful combo of ingredients! Very tasty and satisfying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. Love this! And yes: cauliflower and olives are perfect together. In fact, the brininess of the olives against the cauliflower is super special - green and black alike. I don't know if I've ever had cauliflower in pasta, but I'd definitely try it.

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    1. Hi Shannon, cauliflower and olives really are a wonderful combo, aren't they? Throw in feta cheese, and you've got a party! Thanks for the comment.

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  52. We eat cauliflower all year 'round so this is a must try for sure! I love finding new pasta dishes to make...

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    1. Hi Ashley, one really can't have enough pasta dishes! This is a good one, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. Great dish. Our kind of pasta for sure, esp. with all the olive lovers here. take care

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    1. Hi Pam, love olives! Such deep, rich flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  54. This looks like it might be good at room temperature as well as warm. Would you think?

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    1. Hi Jeff, this is good at room temperature. I've had leftovers that way. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  55. this is just too tempting, John.... I'm dying here!

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    1. Hi Marcela, this is such a flavorful dish. Now that you mention it, I'm dying to have it again! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  56. Looks delicious and light, love it! Will be trying this.

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    1. Hi UR Chef, this is a great spring dish. Or fall. Or anytime. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Cauliflower is one vegetable that I've never used in a pasta, John. This dish of yours makes me wonder why that is. It's a real Mediterranean dish, merging the flavors of Italy with Greece and i cannot wait to give it a go. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi John, I think you'll like this. The cauliflower is wonderful, and the olives and feta add so much. Wonderful flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  58. John, this looks like a contender for our weeknight supper menu soon! I used lots of broccoli in pasta dishes, but I've never thought about using cauliflower. Looks tasty!

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    1. Hi Marcelle, this is a terrific dish -- tons of flavor, and a little bit different. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

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  59. Comforting and looks so delicious! I need this for supper tonight!

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    1. Hi Kiran, you do, you do! Thanks for the comment.

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