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Easy bake! Breadcrumbs, cauliflower liven up the pasta bake

By the Editors of Relish Magazine
Easy bake! Breadcrumbs, cauliflower liven up the pasta bake
(Photo: Photo: Relish Magazine)

Toasted breadcrumbs are pure genius. They put old bread to new use and add flavor, texture and interest to whatever they grace.

To make sure you always have a touch of crunch around, buy panko, or Japanese breadcrumbs. Unlike run-of-the-mill packaged breadcrumbs, panko is made from crustless bread, producing a coarser yet lighter crumb. The result? A crunchier, lighter breading that doesn’t get soggy or weigh down a dish.

This pasta bake with cauliflower is a dish to soothe the soul. The crunchy panko provides a great contrast with the tender cauliflower and pasta.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Crumbs

  • 2 pounds cauliflower florets (about 2 medium heads)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces dried rigatoni (or other) chunky pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
  • 2⁄3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • ¼ cups chopped fresh mint

Preheat oven to 500F.

Slice cauliflower florets into halves vertically (quarters if large), toss with 2 tablespoons oil, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes, then turn cauliflower and roast 5 minutes more, or until tender and browned.

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving ½ cup cooking water. While pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add panko, and cook 3 minutes or until browned. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon each oil and butter in skillet. Add sliced garlic and sauté until golden. Add red pepper and anchovy paste, stirring well; add cauliflower and toss well.

Return drained pasta to pot with ½ cup of the cooking water. Add cauliflower mixture and Romano, cover and cook 3 minutes. Stir in mint and black pepper. Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with the toasted panko. Serves 6.

— Recipe by Laraine Perri