Serves 4 to 6
This classic Italian dish can be made with cauliflower, broccoli or Romanesco. Use an unoaked white wine that is extra crisp and light. In Italy, this means a Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio or Vermentino. In Vermont, look for La Crescent. To add some heft to this dish, add a little bit of pancetta to the pan along with the garlic and cauliflower.
The sauce also makes a great spread for crostini.
- ¼ to ½ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 small cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into very small florets
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Pinch red chile flakes
- ¾ to 1 cup dry white wine, such as La Crescent, plus more as needed
- 1 pound penne rigate
- ½ cup finely grated Thistle Hill Tarentaise, Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat; add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, chile flakes and ½ cup of the white wine. Top with an additional ¼ cup of olive oil; cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, lowering the heat as needed to maintain a steady but gentle simmer. You do not want to brown the garlic. The cauliflower will steam in the wine and in its own water, which will slowly release.
Add additional wine in ¼-cup increments to keep the pot moist and cook until the cauliflower has become very tender. Use a potato masher to break up the cauliflower. Correct seasoning to taste with additional salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
Add the pasta back to the pot and mix with the cauliflower sauce and the cheese. Cook pasta and sauce over medium-low heat for several minutes, adding pasta cooking water as needed, and stirring often, until the pasta absorbs the sauce.