Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

~ Spaghetti, Cauliflower, Red Chile, Parsley, Garlic, Lemon, Breadcrumbs ~

It’s a wonder what a bare refrigerator can produce for dinner. I’ll be honest – the contents of my fridge looked bleak the other day. It was 6 pm, dinner hour was fast approaching, and we were 4 hungry people in the mood for good food – something warm, filling and tasty. I know I write and think about food for most of my day, every day, but sometimes all of that writing and thinking doesn’t materialize as a meal on our dinner plate. This happens, and there we were.

Upon urgent inspection of the refrigerator, I found half a head of cauliflower and a forlorn chile pepper in dire need of rejuvenation, amongst the usual staples including a hunk of cheese and fixings for an oh-so-simple green salad. It would be a pasta night, I knew then, and with these ingredients I made a riff on a gremolata topping. Gremolata is a condiment that traditionally includes parsley, garlic and lemon, served over meat and fish. In this case, I took the basic ingredients of a gremolata and tossed them with breadcrumbs and Pecorino cheese before tumbling the whole lot with finely chopped cauliflower, minced chile and garlic. It was a hit – and so were the groceries I purchased the next day to refill our refrigerator.

Spaghetti with Chile Cauliflower Gremolata

Taste the fresh minced chile for heat, and feel free to adjust the amount of chili flakes to your taste. Serves 4.

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 head medium cauliflower, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 red jalapeno or small Fresno chile, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

Heat panko, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a skillet over medium heat until breadcrumbs are golden, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. When cool, stir in cheese, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add cauliflower. Saute until cauliflower begins to soften, 3 minutes. Add chile and saute until cauliflower is tender but not mushy, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the spaghetti. Add half of the breadcrumbs and toss again. Divide pasta among serving plates. Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs over the pasta. Serve warm.

16 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

  1. I absolutely LOVE pasta with veggies, as they lighten up the dish and are so flavorful together!

    great use for cauliflower, this goes straight to my pinterest board…. 😉

  2. I’ve never made a Gremolata.. and it looks like such an easy addition to a meal, I’ll have to give it a try. I’m so impressed you can whip this up from a half-empty fridge!

  3. Looks delicious. I have to admit there’s a part of me that just loves the empty fridge challenge. I guess it’s my substitute for crossword puzzles.

  4. I am so accustomed to eating pasta the way I did as a kid, bathed in a heavy sauce, that I rarely think to try a lighter hand as you have here. This looks lovely, light and oh so flavorful.

  5. Looks great. I have broccoli I got at the farmers market dying in my fridge. I think pasta it is tomorrow. This is a great light recipe. Thanks for posting.

  6. What a terrific “what’s in the pantry” dinner! I”ve been there at 6pm…pasta is a great savior (as are scrambled eggs). Love your spicy gremolata!

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