Cauliflower with Penne

Recipe 10 minPreparation Time 35 minCooking Time
Cauliflower with Penne

Cauliflower with Penne

10 minPreparation Time 35 min Cooking Time

About this Recipe

The cauliflower comes first in this recipe for a reason: It’s the star of the show, acting as both sauce and featured ingredient. The pasta — which doesn’t have to be penne; any short, dried pasta will work just fine — performs a supporting role, adding structure and substance to this dish. It’s excellent winter-weight food, but with summer pasta salad vibes thanks to the cauliflower and pickled peppers, which both nod admiringly towards giardiniera. This relies on an old Roman trick where you boil the vegetable for a bit, then add the pasta, then remove it all to finish cooking in another pan. The veggie breaks down, getting soft and essentially becoming the sauce. (This works equally well with things like broccoli and zucchini.) Depending on how soft you want your cauliflower, you can give it a longer or shorter head start on the pasta.

The Benefits

Because there’s as much cauliflower as pasta, this is an excellent choice for adding fiber and other nutrients to a simple main course. The garlic, parsley, and hot pepper, besides brightening the flavor dramatically, also each bring their own potent nutrient mixes to the party.


Serves 6 to 8 Servings
  • 1 head (525 g) cauliflower
  • 1 lb (450 g) penne
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (44 g) pickled hot banana or cherry peppers
  • 1 handful (10 g) flat-leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Step 1
    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While it’s heating, cut the head of cauliflower into florets. Cut the largest ones in half or quarters so they’re not huge compared to the smallest. Add the cauliflower to the water and note the time.
  2. Step 2
    About 8 minutes from when you started the cauliflower cooking, add the penne to the same pot and give it a good stir to keep the pasta from sticking. Put the pickled peppers in whatever bowl you want to serve the pasta.
  3. Step 3
    After 6 more minutes add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. When it’s shimmering, add the garlic, stirring well. As soon as the garlic starts to color, use a spider or slotted spoon to add all the cauliflower and pasta to the sauté pan. Toss it all well, adding a ladle of the pasta cooking water, and let it keep cooking until the pasta is just shy of al dente. Add more pasta water as needed to prevent sticking.
  4. Step 4
    Toss in the parsley and oregano; stir well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. Transfer the pasta to the serving bowl, toss to mix in the peppers, and enjoy.

Try It With: Fennel & Orange Salad

Level Up: Make your own pickled peppers, such as Fermented Italian-Style Peppers

Zero Waste: Cauliflower leaves and stalks: add to stock