Welcome back to Weekend Meals That Don’t Require The Whole Weekend To Make. Quesadillas have starred before, as has a delectable ratatouille. We are here to celebrate the fact that vegetables do not always need a bucket of spices emptied over them, or a deluge of oil, or a painful amount of chopping. We are here to acknowledge the fact that vegetables do in fact, have an unbelievable amount of flavour by themselves. The lesser you add to them, the lesser time it takes to prepare them.
Get a head of cauliflower and let’s get started. We’ll be done before this post ends.
Pesto made with basil is a regular weekend feature at our house. Also incredibly quick, incredibly delicious. But when the Smitten Kitchen cookbook came into my life, the cauliflower pesto in it sounded like too much of a mystery to not solve.
Yes I hunted out a bottle of sundried tomatoes, but you don’t have to. No, I didn’t have capers, but I did have sliced olives so that’s what I did. Roasted cherry tomatoes and a squirt of lime will work just as well. This is not so much a recipe as a creation you can call your very own. As long as you have the cauliflower, anything else works. I think sauteed mushrooms would be awesome.
I completely overlooked the instructions about thinning the pesto out with the pasta cooking water. I would recommend you don’t overlook it, since it makes mixing it in a bit easier. Any pasta works, wholewheat or not, spaghetti or fusilli or penne or any other variety you have lying around.
This is a fresh, terribly easy dish where the cauliflower shines enough to leave you amazed but not overwhelmed. Nothing but the pasta is cooked, so you’re pretty much guaranteed your fibre intake for a while. And with just a handful of ingredients, you’re getting mountains of flavour which we so rarely experience. Step away from that big box of spices and make this.
What you’ll need:
1 medium cauliflower, roughly 500 gms, chopped into big chunks with the leaves removed
1 garlic glove
Chill flakes, to taste
1/2 cup almonds or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a pan
5 to 6 pieces of sundried tomatoes, drained of the oil they came in
1/4 cup sliced green olives
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Two fistfuls spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, for garnish (a hard variety of cheese is best, I found adding it to the food processor was dangerous but if yours can take it, add the cheese to step 2)
What to do:
1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the cauliflower chunks until they look like couscous. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
2. Now pulse the garlic, chilli flakes, pine nuts and tomatoes until blended but still chunky.
3. Add this mixture to the cauliflower, then top with the sliced olives, olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Grate parmesan cheese into it, any amount is acceptable. Allow the pesto to rest while you cook the pasta. I put it in the fridge because it was a hot day but room temperature is just fine.
4. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, or with just a little bite left.
5. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the rest. Add the hot pasta to the pesto along with 1/2 cup cooking water and mix till the pesto is well dispersed. Add more of the water if needed. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with more grated parmesan and more sundried tomato pieces and serve. Fresh parsley or basil leaves would be great too.
Grab a fork and thank the cauliflower!
P.S. Sherry vinegar was a nice touch in the recipe, I didn’t have any, but if you do, add about a teaspoon while mixing the pesto!