Adapted ever so slightly from the recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of cauliflower. It’s just never really done anything for me. But this recipe appealed to me for several reasons: 1) I’m trying to cram more vegetables into my diet, 2) it has cheese (c’mon people), and 3) anything with 2 full heads of roasted garlic just has to be good. Forget what you know about cauliflower. If you’ve never had it roasted in the oven, you don’t know what you’re missing. It does something really nice to the cauliflower, and makes it almost nutty tasting. I’m a cauliflower convert now. Even my picky-when-it-comes-to-vegetables husband liked it! It made a delicious side dish paired with some grilled chicken.
2 heads garlic, skins removed, top quarter of heads cut off (on the pointy side of the garlic) and discarded
6 tbs plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower (roughly1 1/2 pounds)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1 pound short cut pasta (For example, fusilli, rotini or campanelle. We used cute mini rotini.)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a large rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut one 12-inch sheet of foil and spread it flat on the counter. Place the garlic heads, cut-side up, in the center of the foil. Drizzle ½ tsp olive oil over each head and fold up the sides of the foil to seal well. Place the foil packet directly on the oven rack (not on the preheating baking sheet) and roast until the garlic is very tender, approximately 40 minutes. Remove the foil packet from the oven, open the foil and set it aside to cool.
Come to mama.
While the garlic is roasting, trim the outer leaves of the cauliflower and cut the stem flush with the bottom. Cut the head from pole to pole into 8 equal wedges and then cut the cauliflower into large bite-sized pieces. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl or in a zip top bag; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt, pepper, and sugar.
Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven. Carefully transfer the cauliflower to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the cauliflower is well browned and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. It took mine about 20 minutes.
Post-baking. Look at that golden brown goodness.
While the cauliflower roasts, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tbs salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Squeeze the cooled, roasted garlic cloves from their skins into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash the garlic to a smooth paste, then stir in red pepper flakes and 2 tbs lemon juice. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the chopped cauliflower to the pasta; stir in the garlic sauce, ¼ cup cooking water, parsley, and ½ cup cheese. Adjust the consistency of the pasta with additional cooking water and season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately, sprinkling with remaining ½ cup cheese and toasted nuts.
Seriously though, check out Mel’s picture, because my atrocious photography doesn’t do this justice. Shoddy photography aside (c’mon guys, I’m a grad student and make peanuts… I can’t afford a nice camera! =) ), this is really really good. Even if you think you don’t like cauliflower, give it a shot! You won’t regret it!