Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

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

Cauliflower pasta

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…

Vegetarian.

Print
Cauliflower pasta

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (9 votes, average: 4.44 out of 5)

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

Description

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


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Perfect Roasted Cauliflower
  • 8 ounces short pasta (rigatoni, penne, etc)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (homemade or plain store bought breadcrumbs* — see note)
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, optional

Instructions

  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 breadcrumbs: While the water is coming to a boil, use a large knife to chop the basil leaves together with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese until it’s finely chopped. 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 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. 
  5. Season the pasta: Immediately add the butter and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or less if you’re using purchased bread crumbs with salt) stirring until it melts, then add the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese about 1/2 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.

Notes

*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

Keywords: Cauliflower Pasta

More vegetable pasta recipes

We’ve got lots more delicious vegetable-centric pasta recipes to choose from. Here are some favorites:

  • Roasted Eggplant Pasta Roasted eggplant + zesty marinara sauce! An impressive plant based dinner, it works for weeknights or parties.
  • Vegan Pasta Primavera So full of flavor! It features spaghetti with spring vegetables like asparagus, peas, spinach, and zesty lemon.
  • Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo This vegan fettuccine alfredo tastes decadent, but the creamy sauce is filled with healthy plant based ingredients…like cauliflower!
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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Dave
    April 13, 2020 at 8:38 pm

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

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      April 13, 2020 at 9:11 pm

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

  • Reply
    Mar
    April 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    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.

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