January 21, 2013

Pin It Pasta with Cauliflower Pesto - Cook the Books

Taken From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Another interesting recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I love using my food processor so any excuse and I'm there. This recipe was all about using the food processor, and it worked really well.  There are just some things that you can't make without the help of this amazing appliance. Love it.

I wasn't able to find this recipe on Smitten Kitchen's site, so I'll provide it below.

1 cauliflower head
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
4 dried packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon capers, drained
3 tablespoons fresh parsley (I used ~6 fresh basil leaves)
2 pinches of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 lb. linguine (I used whole wheat pasta)

Cook your pasta as directed. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to mix into the pesto later.

While your water is boiling/pasta is cooking, cut the cauliflower into chunks and place them in the food processor.  This is easiest to do in 2 batches in order to make the processing more efficient (otherwise you will get chunks of cauliflower that keep missing the blades).  Process to form couscous-like crumbs and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking them as needed to avoid scorching. Cool, then place in the food processor along with the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic, capers and parsley (or basil) and red pepper flakes. Pulse to form a coarse bread-crumb consistency, then add the mixture to the cauliflower in the bowl.
Stir in the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until it's evenly distributed, in order to form a pesto like mixture. The yield is about 3 3/4 cups.

Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly, then add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create the desired consistency (I added about 1/2 cup). Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar as needed.

Like I mentioned, the food processor is key in this dish. If you don't have one, I'm sure you could borrow one or just do everything is tiny batches with the Magic Bullet.  No, not really. Please don't attempt that.

I started out by processing the cauliflower until it looked like couscous.
Separately, I processed the almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic, capers, basil and red pepper flakes until it resembled bread crumbs.
I mixed the two together, then stirred in the olive oil and vinegar. Deb suggests doing this by hand as adding the oil while the food processor is running turns it into a paste.
I mixed the pesto in with the pasta, added 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and topped it off with more shaved Parm.
I really liked this. It's a little odd and I'm not a huge fan of pasta based meals but this was delicious with an interesting texture.  It was a really nice alternative to a heavy cream sauce or an acidic tomato sauce.  The pepper flakes gave it a nice kick and the nuts added a little crunch. A pound of pasta makes a ton so this would be great for an easy, healthy group dinner.

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