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This cauliflower pasta is loaded with flavor, packed with caramelized roasted cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil!

Cauliflower pasta
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Is there any thing better than roasted cauliflower? Over here, we can eat an entire tray in just a few minutes (oops!). So why not make it into a main dish? Meet this Roasted Cauliflower Pasta. It’s got tender, caramelized cauliflower: sweet, lemony and garlicky. Then it’s got al dente pasta that’s covered in a quick Parmesan pan sauce. Top it all off with crunchy basil breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts and well: it’s an explosion of flavor. Here’s how to make our new favorite pasta.

What’s in this cauliflower pasta?

This cauliflower pasta makes the most out of its short ingredient list! You don’t need much to get big flavor. This pasta is Italian-style: in Sicilian cooking cauliflower is often paired with lemon, Parmesan and pine nuts. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Cauliflower: You’ll make our Perfect Roasted Cauliflower: just one head of cauliflower, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest
  • Pasta: You can use any type of noodles (we prefer short like rigatoni, penne, etc — see below!)
  • Breadcrumbs: The best are homemade, but you can also use plain store bought breadcrumbs
  • Fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter
  • Toasted pine nuts: they’re optional, but so good! If you can’t find them, you can substitute toasted slivered almonds, or omit them.
Cauliflower pasta

Serve with a side to make a filling meal!

One thing to note about this cauliflower pasta is that it disappears quickly! The serving size is moderate, so you’ll want to serve it with a side dish to keep the meal filling. Especially if you’re feeding hungry eaters! Here are some ideas for a filling Italian-style meal:

Roasted cauliflower

Tips on roasting cauliflower for pasta

This cauliflower pasta recipe uses our favorite method for making cauliflower: this Perfect Roasted Cauliflower. To us, this is the ultimate way to make cauliflower taste incredible. Open that tab in a separate browser while you make this pasta. Here are a few notes on the method:

  • Roasting at high heat (450 degrees). This makes for the perfect browned, caramelized cauliflower: browning is your friend!
  • Use parchment paper for easy cleanup. We always use parchment paper when roasting veggies because it makes cleanup a breeze. Avoid silicon baking mats, since they can make the vegetables mushy instead of crisp.
  • Don’t forget to add the garlic and lemon zest! This is what takes the flavoring over the top. Make sure to account for this final step while you’re following the pasta recipe.

Use any pasta shape you’d like!

You can use any pasta shape you’d like for this cauliflower pasta! We used rigatoni because we like the look. A short pasta is nice here because it makes it easy to get cauliflower and pasta in each bite. But you could use long noodles if that’s all you have! Here are some pasta types we’d recommend:

  • Short pasta: Rigatoni, penne, cavatappi, shells, gemelli
  • Long pasta: Spaghetti, bucatini, linguine
How to make bread crumbs

Some notes on breadcrumbs

The crunchy breadcrumb topping takes this cauliflower pasta over the top! Here are some notes on the breadcrumbs element:

  • Best choice: make your own! If you have leftover bread laying around, it’s as simple as whizzing it in a food processor (or blender) and baking it in a 300 degree oven to make them crispy. Go to How to Make Breadcrumbs.
  • If you use store bought, be careful about salt. Try to buy crumbs that are coarse textured, because they’ll provide the best crunch. Use crumbs without salt if at all possible. If all you can find is breadcrumbs that have added salt, use less salt when flavoring the pasta!
Cauliflower pasta

Toasted pine nuts optional

Pine nuts can be hard to find and expensive, but they add a unique flavor to this cauliflower pasta! If you can find them, they’re a nice addition. Here are a few notes on the pine nuts element:

  • Don’t skip toasting the nuts! It brings out the flavor. Make sure to go to How to Toast Pine Nuts for instructions on how to toast them! It really brings out the flavor. We taste-tasted without toasting and it was far less flavorful.
  • Omit and it’s still good. If you still want the crunch of nut, you could use Toasted Slivered Almonds. But its just as good without!

And that’s it! Let us know if you try this cauliflower pasta and what you think in the comments below.

Cauliflower pasta

This cauliflower pasta recipe is…


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Cauliflower pasta

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 1x


This cauliflower pasta is loaded with flavor, packed with caramelized roasted cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil!


  • 1 recipe Perfect Roasted Cauliflower
  • 8 ounces short pasta (rigatoni, penne, etc)
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (homemade or plain store bought breadcrumbs* — see note)
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • ¾ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, optional


  1. Make the cauliflower: Make the Roasted Cauliflower. When it’s done, make sure to add the garlic and lemon zest per that recipe.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Make the herbed breadcrumbs: Place the basil leaves on a cutting board with ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese; use a large knife to chop them together until finely minced. Then place it in a bowl and combine it with the breadcrumbs.
  4. Boil the pasta: Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside). Reserve about ¾ cup of the pasta water. Then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. 
  5. Season the pasta: Immediately add the butter and ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or less if you’re using purchased bread crumbs with salt) stirring until it melts, then add the remaining ½ cup Parmesan cheese about ½ cup pasta water. Stir until a creamy sauce forms, adding more of the reserved pasta water if necessary (if it gums up, just keep adding pasta water and stirring until a creamy sauce forms)
  6. Assemble the pasta and serve: Stir in the roasted cauliflower to the pasta. Top with the breadcrumb topping and a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with red pepper flakes and toasted pine nuts, if using. Serve warm.


*If you can only find store bought breadcrumbs that have salt, dial back the salt in the pasta to account for this (see Step 5). 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Roasted
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

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About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Aditi says:

    I am still confused on when to add what. While the water is boiling, I cut basil in a different bowl? what does that mean? The steps are not clear at all

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      We’ve updated that step for clarity — thank you!

  2. Julie Riggs says:

    Not as good as I had hoped.
    1) Having to open additional screens during recipe was annoying. If you have specific recipes for roasting cauliflower, making breadcrumbs, or toasting pine nuts, include instructions in basic recipe!
    2) if I hadn’t been an experienced cook, I would have grated garlic and lemon zest on cauliflower before roasting, instead of after.
    3) I used zest of one lemon and it was too much.

    I made recipe for multiple servings for one person. I reserved breadcrumb/parm mix and toasted pine nuts to add to each serving.

    I might make this recipe with puréed cauliflower and cheese sauce. I would also like more “ sauce”so I could put breadcrumb mix on top and bake this as casserole.

    I will finish the rest of this batch, but probably won’t make again. I’m surprised since I love cauliflower, pasta, and Parmesan cheese.

  3. Mar says:

    I also found this recipe a challenge to follow. It required the use of too many cooking utensils making it high maintenance in terms of cleanup. In addition, the cheese never became a sauce and ended up a big gummy mess. It stuck to my pot and was almost impossible to get rid of. Although the dish tasted ok (aside from being too garlicky for me), I wouldn’t make it again.

  4. Dave says:

    This recipe is difficult to follow. Cook the cauliflower and incorporate it when?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Thanks for letting us know! The recipe has been fixed.