I don’t know about you, but sometimes I crave macaroni and cheese. Occasionally I succumb to a box of Kraft (so good in a bad way) and sometimes I make macaroni and cheese from scratch. But most of the time I just try to resist temptation because I always feel so guilty after eating a carb and fat laden meal with NO vegetables. But now that I have discovered the deliciousness of Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu I will never need to feel guilty again. Thank you, Mario Batali!
This recipe comes from Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking. I can’t say enough good things about this dish! It is absolutely delicious and so much better for you than macaroni and cheese from a box. More vegetables than cheese or pasta, but you would never know it. I have made this several times for friends and it always gets rave reviews. The leftovers are delicious, too. 🙂
My version is a little different from the recipe in Mario Batali’s cookbook. I decreased the amount of pasta, added more cheese and breadcrumbs, and snuck in an entire bunch of kale, just to make this a little more healthy. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
If you like this recipe you might also enjoy:
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 lbs)
- 1 small bunch kale
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 cup water
- 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 and 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Maldon or other flaky sea salt
- 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 8 oz. dry pennette (mini penne) preferably whole wheat
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and olive oil. Stir to combine.
- Sauté the bread crumbs, stirring frequently, until they are toasted and lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Cut the cauliflower in half. Remove the leaves, core and stalks.
- Cut the cauliflower florets into small pieces and set aside.
- Chop the core, stalks and leaves.
- Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cauliflower core, stalks, leaves, garlic, and onion. Season with Maldon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until the cauliflower is tender – approximately 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the kale leaves from their stems and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Discard the stems.
- Add the cauliflower florets, kale, red pepper flakes and 1 cup of water to the pot.
- Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft and almost falling apart, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- When the cauliflower is cooked, add the butter and stir it in gently. Taste and season with more Maldon salt if necessary. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Stir the pasta into the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente.
- Drain the pasta, but reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta and 1/3 cup of pasta water back to the pot. Stir in the cauliflower mixture, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, 1 cup of bread crumbs and the chopped rosemary.
- Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
- Finish with a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.