Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Capers


October heralds the start of my favorite dinner party season. After months of standing outside, getting nipped by mosquitoes, a condiment-heavy hot dog in one hand and smeared rosé glass in the other, I look forward to sitting and eating around my dining room table with a knife and fork. The guest list doesn’t change, merely the location and what’s on the menu.Cooler weather taps into my cravings for heartier fare, and I’m happy to turn on the oven again. Of all the fall vegetables, it’s the return of my beloved cauliflower and its elegant florets that I celebrate the most. I adore cauliflower in all of its preparations, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be roasted. There’s a nuttiness that is coaxed out during its time in the oven that brings me to my knees. For a crowd-pleaser at any party, I combine sheet pan–roasted cauliflower with pasta along with some crispy capers for salty crunch; anchovies (just a few) for umami depth; sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes for oomph, and lemon zest for brightness.This recipe calls for the standard white cauliflower, but if you happen to see the purple or orange “cheddar” variety, by all means grab them for presentation’s sake. (I’ve also used half the traditional amount of pasta here, which I know some of you might question, but please trust me here. The pasta is a vehicle for the vegetables and the sauce—not the other way around. Plus, now you can add garlic bread back to your menu, should you choose.) Since it’s acceptable to drink red wine again, I’d pair this dish with one that is light and bright with good acid, such as a Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Gamay, which are both reliably food-friendly. So sit back, settle in, build a fire, and have some good friends over.Fall is here, and I’m here for it.

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
40 mins


  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided

  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided, plus more for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until package directions for al dente, about 10 minutes; drain and reserve about 1 cup cooking water.

  2. Toss cauliflower with salt, black pepper, and half of oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer; roast in preheated oven until deeply golden brown, about 25 minutes, tossing halfway through to ensure even browning.

  3. When cauliflower is about 5 minutes from being done, heat remaining olive oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Add capers, and cook, spooning hot oil over capers, until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove capers with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic, anchovies, and red pepper. Cook until garlic is pale golden and anchovies have melted into oil, 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Add pasta, roasted cauliflower, lemon zest, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/2 cup cooking water to skillet; toss to coat until glossy. Remove from heat, and add 2 tablespoons cheese. Tossing pasta constantly, add additional cooking water as needed for sauce to reach desired consistency.

  5. Top pasta with crispy capers, remaining 2 tablespoons cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Divide evenly among bowls, and top with additional cheese.

    Cauliflower Pasta Recipe
    Caitlin Bensel
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