Pasta Puttanesca With Cauliflower

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It seems February is pasta month in my house as I have been making pasta multiple times a week recently. We bought a few types of artisan pasta over the Christmas holidays, including an amazing whole wheat pasta from Benedetto Cavalieri called pennuce, which is basically simply mezza penne pasta. Ari of the famed Zingerman’s in Michigan and online, highly recommended this brand of whole wheat pasta and his recommendations are always great so I decided to try it. Trying to eat healthy is an ongoing journey and although I will never give up my pasta, I am all for trying to choose healthier varieties and topping them with healthy sauces. If you have tested some whole wheat pasta varieties, you will know that there seems to be a fine line where they are cooked just right. Pass that line by half a minute or so and the pasta is grainy and starts to fall apart.

We really enjoyed this whole wheat pasta from Benedetto Cavalieri the first time I prepared it, and on my second try I decided to go with a Pasta Puttanesca With Cauliflower sauce. This pasta sauce is well known for being an easy, pantry staple pasta sauce that includes tomatoes, anchovies, capers, garlic, and black olives. For a change, I added cauliflower florets that I cooked in the sauce and we really enjoyed how it turned out. The pasta was firm to the bite, the whole wheat flavor did not overpower the sauce, and the sauce had just enough spice to it to make my husband happy. Although I love the traditional puttanesca version (without cauliflower), I love to add healthy veggies to any sauce that I can to improve the nutritional profile, and the addition of cauliflower was a great addition to this sauce. In fact, I think I’ll include often in the future. Though very good, this pasta is not inexpensive, and I have never seen the whole wheat variety sold in stores although the blue label regular pasta can be found in specialty stores. The best price I found online for the whole wheat version was the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.

For my puttanesca sauce I used a favorite variety of imported Sicilian anchovies, although any good quality anchovies in olive oil (not salt) would work well. I almost always choose Pomi, Cento, or Muir Glen crushed tomatoes unless I can get my hands on an imported San Marzano brand from Italy. For the olives, stay away from the flavorless canned ones and instead choose a pitted Kalamata variety that has lots of flavor. I love Trader Joe’s black olives and always keep a few jars on hand in my pantry. For the capers, I always prefer salted capers that I rinse well and chop. I simply find they have more flavor and actually taste like capers and not just vinegar. Although I used a whole wheat version of pennuce, any short pasta such as penne, rigatoni, or fusilli would work well in this dish.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2014

Pasta Puttanesca With Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Head Of Cauliflower, Cored & Cut Into Small Florets
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 (28 Ounce) Can Crushed Tomatoes (See Notes Above)
  • 1/2 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives, Coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons Salted Capers, Rinsed Well & Chopped
  • 2 to 3 Anchovies in Oil, Mashed
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Hot Red Pepper Flakes (Or More Depending On Taste)
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
  • 3/4 Pound Short Pasta Of Choice

To Serve:

  • Fresh Parsley Leaves
  • Freshly Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and then add the cauliflower florets.
  2. Cook, stirring often until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup of water, the olives, capers, anchovies, pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. If the sauce becomes too thick during this time, add another half cup of water.
  6. Stir in the parsley and keep warm.
  7. Cook the pasta in a large pot of lightly salted water until it is “al dente”.
  8. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and toss with half the sauce.
  9. Spoon the pasta into four individual bowls, and top with an additional scoop of sauce, a sprinkling of parsley leaves and a spoonful of shaved Pecorino Romano cheese.