Steamed cauliflower is OK, but I really like the caramelized flavor it takes on when roasted. Combined here with roasted garlic and fennel, this dish has a deep, satisfying quality perfect for a chilly evening. It also boasts a creamy texture with just a modest amount of cheese.
Making Roasted Cauliflower Penne
The basic approach here gets the cauliflower, fennel and garlic roasting in the oven as your first step. A bit after the veggies start roasting, you get the pasta water boiling.
The sautéed cabbage along with onions adds some nice color to the dish and additional nutrition. However, the flavor for this Roasted Cauliflower Penne really comes from the roasted veggies, so you could skip sautéing the onions and cabbage if you would like to streamline the process.
I like to use whole wheat penne pasta for this dish, which enhances the nutritional value of the meal.
When I originally made the Roasted Cauliflower Penne, I added some toasted walnuts, which added some nice additional flavor and crunch. However, we are now nut free in our house due to a food allergy, and the recipe is fine without the walnuts. Add them if you like, but skipping the walnuts is fine.
You need a bit of broth to puree the roasted vegetables into the desired consistency. Of course, use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish. If you aren’t concerned about that and have chicken broth on hand, that works well too.
Wine Pairing for Roasted Cauliflower Penne
We paired the Roasted Cauliflower Penne with a California Pinot Noir. It wasn’t my favorite bottle, but from the pairing I could see that the earthy roasted veggies do make Pinot Noir a good choice. Ellipsis Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley is a good, reasonably priced option you might try.
Of course, Italian wines are a natural choice for pasta dishes. I would go for something simple and fruit forward with the Roasted Cauliflower Penne, such as a Dolcetto.
- 1 small to medium bulb fennel, chopped
- 1 medium cauliflower, coarsely chopped
- 1 head garlic garlic
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh sage if available
- ½ cup chicken or veggie broth (veggie broth to make this as a vegetarian dish)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup red cabbage, chopped
- 1 lb penne pasta, preferably whole wheat
- optional: a handful of toasted walnuts
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To get the garlic ready for roasting, cut off about ½ inch from the bottom (root end) of the garlic, keeping the skin on but exposing a bit of the garlic cloves. Place on top of a sheet of aluminum foil drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the garlic snugly with the oil and place in the oven.
- Toss the fennel with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a roasting pan, and get it roasting for 5 minutes.
- Take the pan out, add the cauliflower with another tablespoon of the olive oil, and toss together. Put the pan back in the oven, letting it roast for 25 to 30 minutes.
- As the veggies roast, start a pan of water boiling for the penne. Start cooking the penne according to package instructions when there’s about 10 minutes left for the veggie roasting time.
- Sauté the onion and cabbage as the veggies roast. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet on medium heat, then add the onion. After the onion begins to soften, add the cabbage. Sauté for about 5 more minutes, so the cabbage begins to soften.
- The roasted vegetables are done when they have started to nicely brown and soften a bit. This will take about 25 minutes from the time you put the cauliflower in the oven. When the veggies are done roasting--including the garlic--remove from them oven and let cool slightly for a few minutes. Scoop the veggies into a food processor, scraping out bits that might be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add a tbsp of the olive oil along with the broth. Puree until the vegetables have achieved a fairly event consistency.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain, and stir in the pureed roasted veggies. Then add the onion and cabbage mixture, followed by the ¼ cup of cheese and walnuts if using them. Plate and serve, passing the extra cheese at the table.
*Notes: I did the onion/cabbage saute largely to add a little color to the dish; plus, I have a lot of cabbage on hand. The flavor here really comes from the roasted cauliflower puree, so you could easily skip the saute portion. I also roasted some kohlabri and tossed into the dish. It was a bit too hard to puree so I left in chunks. It was OK and if you happened to be looking to use some up, give it a try–but it didn’t add too much to the flavor.