I’m excited to share this Italian pasta with cauliflower recipe with you for a few reasons. Not only is adding cauliflower in with your pasta a great way to make a delicious meal, but it’s easy, quick and healthy.
This recipe is designed to showcase the cauliflower, not hide its true flavor. This can happen when recipes get too carried away with ingredients. Italian cooking isn’t hard or complicated, but the secret to great Italian cooking is in the simplicity and quality of the ingredients. This recipe does exactly that.
Pasta with Cauliflower
This recipe obviously uses pasta and cauliflower, but it is also a sauce-less recipe, meaning it is seasoned with the olive oil, onions and garlic that we saute.
It’s a very simple recipe and is said to originate from Sicily, although I don’t think my Sicilian in-laws or my family ever made this particular recipe. I was inspired to create this recipe as I really enjoy adding vegetables to my pasta dishes, such as my Italian pasta and peas recipe or pasta with swiss chard.
I didn’t realize that cauliflower and pasta was actually a thing until I decided to write about my recipe!
Needless to say, it’s a great way to use up extra cauliflower, similar to my midnight pasta. It’s pretty much ready to be served by the time the pasta is done cooking. Who doesn’t love that?!
Like many of my Italian pasta recipes, there are various ways you can modify this recipe based on what you have available in your fridge or pantry. Use what you have and allow yourself to be flexible with the ingredients without losing the intent of the recipe.
I’ll step you through this pasta recipe start to finish and will include some tips and suggestions on different variations you can try.
Ready to get started? Andiamo!
To make this dish, all you need are two kitchen items, a saute pan and a sauce pan or pot.
Medium/Large saute pan
Use a saute pan that will be large enough to add the cooked pasta at the end of the recipe. If you don’t have enough space in your pan, you can mix everything together directly in a large pasta serving bowl.
Medium Sauce Pan or Pot
This will be used for boiling the pasta. This recipe serves 4, so make sure the pot will accommodate the pasta used.
Here are some notes for the ingredients you’ll need, most of which you probably already have in your pantry. You’ll find specific measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
I recommend extra virgin olive oil. This is used for sauteing the garlic and cauliflower.
You’ll want to dice the garlic. I don’t slice it since I want a stronger flavor. If you’re concerned about potency or want eaters to pull out the garlic while eating, then go ahead and slice it. This is one of those ingredients you can add more or less. I love garlic in recipes like this one.
Dice the onions into small pieces. This will help them cook quicker and save you time.
I’m using fresh cauliflower. I’ve seen frozen cauliflower at the grocery store which you can use if you prefer that. However we will chop the cauliflower into small pieces or crumbles, including the stem, so that might be a pain if the cauliflower is frozen.
I used long pasta when I took my photos, but just about any type will do. I like spaghetti or bucatini since they are thicker and compliment the texture of the cauliflower. Avoid thin long pasta such as vermicelli or angel hair. You can use short pastas too, such as penne.
I recommend using grated Romano as the preferred cheese. I like the sharpness that it brings to the cauliflower. Remember, Romano is stronger tasting than Parmesan and a little goes a long way.
Red Pepper flakes
This is optional, but I like to add a dash of it to give the dish a little bit of heat.
How to Make Pasta with Cauliflower
Now that we know what ingredients are needed, we can start making our pasta dish!
First step is to heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat, then add the garlic and stir so the garlic is coated with the oil.
Saute for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Make sure not to burn the garlic, otherwise start over.
Next add in the diced onions and stir so they are coated with the oil. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for about 5-8 minutes or until translucent.
Add in your chopped cauliflower to the onions and garlic and give it a good stir. Lower the cooking temperature to low.
Add a drop of water and cover with a lid. This will help create steam which will cook the cauliflower.
Cook the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes until fork-tender. Some people like their cauliflower very soft, others not so much. I find when it can be pierced with a fork easily it is a good consistency.
While the cauliflower is cooking, cook the pasta in boiling water. When done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water and set to the side. This is used only if the pasta dish comes out a little dry which can happen if things cook too long.
At this point, the cauliflower should be done as well. Transfer the pasta directly to the saute pan (remember to reserve some pasta water). Notice I didn’t drain the pasta, but just transferred it directly.
You can drain it if you wish, but I actually want some of that pasta water in with the pasta and cauliflower when it is combined.
Mix the pasta thoroughly so all the ingredients are mixed throughout. If it seems too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
Top with the Romano cheese and the red pepper flakes. Serve warm and mangia!
Here are some ideas for how to modify my pasta with cauliflower recipe. I encourage all my readers to feel comfortable making little tweaks to make the recipe their own.
- Add in some chopped parsley at the end, or for a peppery flavor, add arugula.
- Top with toasted breadcrumbs. If you’re not sure how to toast your own breadcrumbs, check out my article, How to Toast Breadcrumbs. If you’ve never heard of using breadcrumbs with pasta, you should try my recipe for pasta with breadcrumbs.
- Add in a second vegetable such as roasted red pepper. You can buy these in a jar and is what I use for many recipes. I don’t have time to roast them myself.
- Add in some beans such as cannellini beans. Cannellini beans have a creamy texture and pair very well with pasta dishes, such as in my pasta with spinach and cannellini beans recipe.
- Roast your cauliflower with Romano and then add to the pasta. You can use my recipe for Italian roasted cauliflower.
Storage and Reheating Your Pasta
This recipe makes great leftovers so don’t toss any away if you have extra. Let the pasta cool, then store in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. I do not recommend freezing this dish.
You can reheat the pasta with the cauliflower by heating the entire dish in a saute or frying pan on the stove top over medium heat. When warmed through, top with your Italian cheese and red pepper flakes, if using.
What to Serve with Pasta and Cauliflower?
Here are some recipe suggestions for what will go with this meal.
Pasta always tastes great with a fresh green leafy salad. Chop up some greens, add some onion, tomatoes and a nice Italian lemon oregano vinaigrette.
Serve with some fresh garlic bread. You can either buy the bread already seasoned or you can make your own. I’ve got an easy recipe you can check out for how to make Italian garlic bread.
Questions You May Have
Yes, you can use either frozen or fresh cauliflower. Allow extra time for sauteing the frozen florets if they are not thawed.
Yes, absolutely. Just add the leftovers to a saucepan with a ¼ cup water and heat over medium heat.
Nearly any type of pasta will work with cauliflower from linguini to orcchiette. Avoid large pasta such a rigatoni which is better for pasta bakes. I recommend spaghetti, penne, or bucatini.
Additional Similar Recipes
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, or want to try similar recipes, check these out below.
For a refreshing dish, try my pasta with fresh tomatoes and garlic recipe. Perfect for the summer or when wishing for those summer days!
Angel hair pasta salad is a cold pasta dish, but tastes amazing!
Pasta with asparagus and peas is delightful recipe and uses a nice light alfredo sauce.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipe for pasta with cauliflower, and that you found it not only easy and quick to make, but also delicious! I’d love to hear of any changes you made to make this recipe your own.
Let me know in the comments section below!
Pasta with Cauliflower
- 1 large saute pan
- 1 sauce pan or pot
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- ¼ medium onion diced
- 2 cups of chopped fresh cauliflower
- ½ lb pasta
- Romano cheese for topping
- Red pepper flakes optional
- dash salt and pepper optional
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large sauce pan or pot.
- While the water is coming to a boil, proceed with the following steps.
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Add in the chopped garlic, stir to coat with the oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Do not let it burn.2 cloves garlic
- Add in the diced onions and stir again to coat. Cook for 5-8 minutes until translucent.¼ medium onion
- Add in the chopped cauliflower and mix well. Add about 1 Tbsp water, and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes until cauliflower is fork-tender or to your preferred level of tenderness.2 cups of chopped fresh cauliflower
- Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al-dente according to package instructions. When done, reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside. If the pasta is done before the cauliflower, drain most of the water, and set aside.½ lb pasta
- When pasta is done, transfer directly to the pan with the cauliflower. Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients together.
- Serve immediately, topping with cheese and red pepper flakes.Romano cheese for topping, Red pepper flakes
- The quantities I’ve listed are very flexible, and quite honestly change each time I make it because I don’t usually measure ingredients. If you like more cauliflower, use more. If you like less garlic, use less. And so forth.
- I prefer making this recipe with long pasta. However, you can certainly use any shape you want. The larger the cauliflower bits, the more I’d lean towards using a short pasta like penne. The smaller it is chopped, even super fine, the more I’d recommend a long pasta. But I’d avoid a very thin pasta like angel hair.
- I do not save the reserved pasta water once the meal is over. If reheating any leftovers, I just use a drop of regular water.