Creamy sauce, hot Italian chilies and roasted cauliflower make this quick pasta incredibly flavorful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spicy Italian Cauliflower Pasta
- 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
- 1/2 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, to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) salt-packed capers, rinsed well and drained
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 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.