When you're in the mood for pasta (which happens daily for me), but don't want anything that's going to weigh you down and make you feel (for lack of a better word) fat, this penne with cauliflower is an excellent, healthy option. The original recipe is an old one of Marcella Hazan's that was tweaked by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, and then tweaked again by me. Of course, my tweak was to add about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese in at the end to give the whole thing a little bump of flavor. I realize that move may negate the pure healthfulness of the dish but I just couldn't resist. Feel free to be a stronger person than I and leave it out. It's delicious either way.
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Pasta with Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, about 1 pound
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound penne, fusilli or other cut pasta
1 cup coarse bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the cauliflower, and divide it into florets. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water, and boil the cauliflower in it until it is tender but not mushy. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the cauliflower and set it aside. When it is cool enough to handle, chop it roughly into small pieces.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium-low heat, saute garlic in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden. Start cooking pasta in same pot and same water as was used for the cauliflower.
When the garlic is ready, add the cauliflower to skillet, and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally. When pasta is just about done - it should be two or three minutes short of the way you like it - drain it, reserving about a cup of cooking liquid.
Add pasta to skillet containing the cauliflower, and toss with a large spoon until they are well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with just enough pasta water to keep the mixture moist but not soupy. Toss in the Parmesan cheese and mix well. When the mixture is hot and the pasta is tender and nicely glazed, mix in the bread crumbs.
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