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Spicy Italian Cauliflower Pasta

5 from 3 votes

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Creamy sauce, hot Italian chilies and roasted cauliflower make this quick pasta incredibly flavorful.

A close up photo of a bowl of spaghetti with cauliflower pieces and Italian chili sauce.

If you’re in the mood to appreciate the delicious healing power of hot red peppers, this spicy cauliflower pasta recipe will do the trick.

The creamy sauce tempers the chili’s heat and coats the pasta strands in just the right way.

I’m nothing but a fan of cauliflower, especially paired with big, bold flavors and spices.

And as a person with a serious attraction to harissa, it’s no surprise that I’m hooked on fiery Calabrian chilies.

Calabrian chilies with salted capers for Calabrian pasta carbonara recipe

It could be in my blood. The majority of my ancestors were from Campania, a region bordering Basilicata and Calabria in Italy, where chilies reign supreme.

It could be a thing, but there’s a little story behind the jar of peppers.

Years ago during a visit to California wine country,  I wandered into a gift store in Yountville. Right there in the middle of the place was Michael Chiarello, working the room like the smooth guy he was. He was wearing an immaculate lavender oxford shirt, slim Italian-tailored trousers and his megawatt Food Network smile.

A bowl of spaghetti with cauliflower pieces and Italian chili sauce.

Feeling starstruck, I went over to say hello. He handed me a jar of pepproncini, telling me it was from his family’s hometown in Calabria and that I couldn’t leave the store without it.

Okay! He didn’t have to work that sales angle too hard.

A bowl of spaghetti with cauliflower pieces and Italian chili sauce.

I now keep a jar of the fiery stuff on hand at all times, and it was only a matter of time before it landed in a big, comforting bowl of pasta.

This dish makes a perfect meatless main, but it’s also delicious with topped with prosciutto crisps.

You can track down Calabrian chili paste online and Williams-Sonoma as well as in specialty grocery stores or well-stocked supermarkets.

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Spicy Italian Cauliflower Pasta

Karen Tedesco
A creamy, carbonara-style pasta dish with roasted cauliflower and spicy Italian chili paste. 
Print Pin
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 head (800 g) cauliflower, sliced into small pieces
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces (340 g) dried spaghetti or linguine
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (50 g) grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with a garlic press
  • 1-2 tablespoons (30 g) crushed Calabrian chili paste or harissa paste, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) salt-packed capers, rinsed well and drained
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (20 g) chopped fresh Italian parsley


  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Toss cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet with enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  • While the spaghetti cooks, whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl large enough to hold the spaghetti. Season with a pinch of salt and add half the cheese. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, and cook a few minutes until fragrant (don’t let the garlic brown). Stir in the chili paste, capers, and cream. Cook another minute or two then add to the egg mixture and whisk together.
  •  Add the drained spaghetti to the egg mixture and toss vigorously with tongs until the pasta is well coated and the sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the cauliflower and parsley.
  • Serve in bowls sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

If you can’t locate Calabrian chili paste, Asian-style chili-garlic sauce or harissa will work, too. Adjust the amount of Calabrian hot peppers you use depending on the brand, as they seem to vary in intensity.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 411mg | Potassium: 571mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 810IU | Vitamin C: 75mg | Calcium: 222mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Mention @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Instagram

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. We made this for dinner last night and it was so so tasty! Really great for vegetarians.

  2. Nice! Both the story and the recipe. I had a chance to interview Michael Chiarello some years ago ~ actually quite awhile back; I think it was 2000. It was before I even knew I would become a writer of cookbooks, and before he had started his company NapaStyle. I was a senior writer at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, working on a story about philanthropy in the Napa Valley (I thought I was rather clever for thinking of a story idea that involved traveling to CA wine country). He was a nice guy and full of creative ideas. I’m not big on Food Network celebs but I have always liked Chiarello’s books; they are among my favorites. His recipes stay true to the spirit Italian tradition but always have an inspired twist or touch…like your cauliflower carborara recipe. I love cauliflower so I’ll be making this.

    1. Thanks Domenica. I agree, Michael Chiarello really has a talent, not only for performing as a food celeb, but as a teacher. I like how he respects tradition, but brings his own personal style to his food. Good for you for being so clever 🙂 I could learn something from you, too!

      1. I made this last night for dinner and we all loved it. I did not have the peperoncini a pezzi so I had to improvise ~ I used Vietnamese chili garlic sauce, of all things! I also chopped up a few anchovies in spicy sauce and tossed those in as well. Delicious. Thank you for the inspiration.

        1. Anchovies! What a great addition. Now I’m hungry thinking about that combination…thank goodness for international chili sauces, too. Love your improv!

    1. Thanks, Laura, glad you think so – they are my favorite flavors.

  3. This is a nice twist to my usual Sicilian style cauliflower and pasta w/ capers and raisins!
    I will try it this weekend! Thank you!

    1. Hi Stacey – that Sicilian-style cauliflower sounds delish!