Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe breaks down into 4 basic steps once the prep work is done – make pesto, roast cauliflower, boil pasta and combine. If you cut the cauliflower small enough it disappears a midst the pasta and pesto. That’s not a bad thing if you are feeding children or the cauliflower-phobic.
[Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower]
While I made this dish to be served hot/warm it could also work as a cold salad.

Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower
Servings: 12-14
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


  • 4 oz. fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 heads cauliflower, cored and broken down into small pieces (see note)
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 24 oz. tubular pasta such as cavatappi


  1. Fill a pot with 8 quarts of water, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and set it over high heat. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Prep the basil by removing the leaves from the stems, rinsing them and giving them a spin in a salad spinner to remove the excess water. Chop the stems into 1/8″ pieces, discarding the ends.
  3. Place the basil leaves & stems, along with the toasted pine nuts and chopped garlic, into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 1-second pulses to roughly chop. Scrap the sides, add the cheese and turn on the food processor. Add approx. 3/4 cup of olive oil in a slow stream until the pesto comes starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. Toss cauliflower with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with sugar, paprika and 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt. Toss until the cauliflower is well coated. Transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking pan and bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan 180° half way through cooking. Set aside.
  5. Boil pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Add pesto and cauliflower; stir to combine. Add addition grated cheese if desired.

When breaking down a head of cauliflower I start by cutting it in half through the stem. I then remove the core and any remaining leaves. Next I break off the florets. Anything larger than 1/2″ I cut into 1/2″ slices.

The pesto and cauliflower can be made in advance. Bring both to room temperature before combining with the pasta.

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