Pasta with Cauliflower, Ricotta and Spiced Oil

I found the bones of this recipe in a People magazine, one I felt lucky to get my grubby paws on in a doctor's waiting room. I've been spending more time in various medical offices around town —a story for another post. But I will say that most of these places have the saddest assortment of reading materials. They should stock the most outrageous celebrity rags and travel magazines to help people get their minds off whatever worry sent them there in the first place. 

Alton Brown wrote it (is he a regular contributor to People magazine?) so I figured it was foolproof and it kind of is. He recommend this new way of cooking the pasta (start it in cold salted water, bring to a boil, then simmer to done) and it didn't really work for me but the other ideas were good like adding lots of roasted cauliflower to pasta. I added generous dollops of ricotta for pools of tangy creaminess and then made a spicy oil to drizzle over the top (optional). Substantial but still light tasting. 

I prepared it while my daughter did her homework and she gave me the thumbs up on the spiced oil aroma—she said it smelled like chorizo. Who doesn't like chorizo? Somehow the oil compliments the other flavors in the pasta without burying them. I can't get enough of it. 

Pasta with Cauliflower, Ricotta and Spiced Oil

Adapted from People Magazine
serves 4

1/2 lb. pasta
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized chunks
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes or small can chopped, drained
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups (approx.) ricotta
1 cup breadcrumbs (freshly made or plain store-bought)
Big handful of fresh basil 

Preheat oven to 400ยบ
Toss cauliflower and fresh tomatoes (if using, if going with canned—wait) with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saute pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cauliflower is lightly browned. Meanwhile cook pasta to al dente in well-salted water then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. 

Put saucepan over medium heat and add tomatoes if using canned, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until tomato water mostly evaporates then add pasta, Parmesan and enough of the pasta water to coat. Toss to combine, top with big dollops of ricotta and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and breadcrumbs. Put back in oven for 20 minutes until breadcrumbs are toasty. Remove, sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with spiced oil alongside, if desired. 

Spiced Oil

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat everything until it sizzles then remove from heat, swirl and serve. 


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