Lentil Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Spicy Tomato, and Pecorino

I think I could have a blog solely dedicated to pasta.  I am half Italian and lived in Italy for several years so, needless to say, pasta is my weakness.  I have it at least once a week and it takes effort to prevent this site from becoming overloaded with pasta recipes.  Pasta is texturally exciting, a perfect vehicle for any kind of vegetable/protein mix, and is quick to prepare.  All of the new varieties of pasta doesn’t hurt its case either.

Dried pasta has come a long way in the last few years.  Aside from durum wheat and gluten-free rice varieties that have been around for years, you can now get pasta made from red or green lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, or local rye, to name some of my favorites.  I always have a variety of pastas stocked in my pantry for lazy and last-minute meals.  This satisfying pasta dish is a result of me fervently throwing together a meal after coming home from work ravenous thus, it only requires a few pantry staples and some cauliflower to make.

My measurements here are approximations, as it’s such a simple recipe that is ideally adjusted to taste.  I don’t think we should always be bound to measurements when cooking, as we all have slightly different preferences, ingredients, and equipment.  In fact, I’m a big fan of Bon Appétit’s new campaign for cooking without a recipe.

Lentil Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Spicy Tomato, and Pecorino

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 box (12 ounces) lentil pasta (Tolerant brand is my favorite)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 head cauliflower

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

scant tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 cup broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable are all fine, plain water will do in a pinch)

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

pinch red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

salt and black pepper, to taste

dollop (about 2 tablespoons) mascarpone (optional)

Pecorino Romano, to serve

What to do:

Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut cauliflower in 1/2-inch thick slices, core side down.  (You will end up with a few flat “steaks” in the middle.  Set those aside for later grilling or roasting).  Toss floret slices with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread flat onto prepared baking sheet and roast in oven until tender and browned, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil.

In an equal size or smaller pot, sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Add tomato paste and let brown for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  Slowly pour in broth, stirring to incorporate into tomato.  Season with dried basil, red pepper, salt, and black pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Feel free to add more broth if the sauce gets to thick, or simmer longer if the sauce is too thin.

Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions, and drain.  Return drained pasta to pot and toss with tomato sauce, roasted cauliflower, and mascarpone.  Serve with plenty of freshly grated Pecorino Romano and extra red pepper for the table.

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