Winter Citrus Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower
One of Sam's favorite quick citrus season meals to make for his family.
Caramelized cauliflower adds depth and texture alongside the bright, peak of season Meyer lemon and blood orange zest and juice. Tip from Sam: don’t skimp on the high-quality EVOO as it is the primary sauce for the dish. He suggests Bi-Rite Olive Oil from Puglia for its bright, peppery, floral notes and because it really helps showcase the simple but beautiful flavors alongside the csareccia.
1.5 pound head of cauliflower
1 pound of Rustichella casareccia pasta
½ bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried and chopped coarsely
4 ounces grana Padano, grated (will yield about 1 cup of grated cheese)
½ cup Bi-Rite Puglian EVOO, plus more to taste
1 large Meyer lemon, zest removed and chopped coarsely; and juiced (about 2oz)
1 small blood orange, zest removed and chopped coarsely; and juiced (about 2oz)
4 cloves peeled garlic, chopped medium fine, (about 2 tablespoons)
½ teaspoon chili flakes, or to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well. The water should taste like ocean water.
Remove core and leaves of cauliflower and chop into small pieces. In a bowl, toss with ¼ cup EVOO and season with kosher salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon. Lay on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until the cauliflower is caramelized and browned, about 20 minutes. Once the cauliflower is roasted, set it aside.
At this point, you can drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Be sure to keep it very al dente (toothsome) as you will continue cooking the pasta in the sauce.
Once the pasta is in the water, heat a large sauté pan or pot on a medium flame.
Add ¼ cup EVOO to the pan allow to warm up, but not get too hot and smoky.
Add garlic and chili flakes and sauté stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the garlic gets soft and releases its aroma. Don’t let garlic brown. Lower heat once garlic has tenderized.
Add roasted cauliflower and sauté with garlic for a few minutes on low heat.
Add zest of lemon and blood orange. Sauté for 1 minute to release oils from zest.
Add citrus juices.
At this point pasta should be cooked enough. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Don’t rinse the drained pasta. We want all those starches to help bind the sauce.
Add ½ cup of the reserved cooking water to the pan. Then add the drained pasta. Stir while on low heat to continue cooking the pasta in the water so it absorbs all the flavors.
Once the pasta has absorbed all the water, add another ½ cup of the reserved water.
Add the chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Stir together on low heat. If it thickens too much, add a bit more water to loosen and make the pasta saucy.
Finish with freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste, though it might not need additional salt if the pasta water was salted enough.
As an option, once plated you can finish with another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top for added richness.