Spring has yet to arrive in our neck of the woods. It felt like it was here for a split second but it didn’t last. We continue to get more snow and rain and I’d say that this season is starting to out stay it’s welcome. But, so it goes and if I have to stay in hibernation mode just a little longer well then I’m going to make the most of it. And I’m going to make pasta.
It was my birthday this week. A day spent walking through the woods and fuelling up on bowls of hot carbs and chocolate cake is a good day in my books, so we celebrated quietly and here we are a few days into another year. We’re back east now and closer to family and even though I’m not quite sure how this year is going to unfold, I know that it will be more than enough. And it will be right. And it will be filled with joyful, often ordinary moments that make this life all that it is. If 30 years on this earth have taught me anything, it is to search for the magic in the mundane.
Because life, after all, is just a combination of magic and pasta.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER PASTA WITH LEMON GARLIC RICOTTA + CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS
You can easily make your own ricotta. It may sound crazy to make your own cheese but it’s such a simple process, it’s worth trying even if just for fun. I haven’t tried it but I would imagine that a tofu or nut based ricotta would work here as well, as it’s the salty pasta water that make the sauce really creamy. It would be worth trying if you follow a strict plant based diet, please report back.
I read somewhere that for every 100g of pasta you should have 1 liter of water and 10g of salt. I don’t salt my water quite so much, but salty starchy pasta cooking water is the secret to flavourful sauces, so add more than just a pinch here.
This dish is definitely best served immediately, however if you have leftovers they can easily be reheated in a sauce pot or skillet with a splash of water.
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
6 large cloves of garlic, whole (papery skin still intact)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt + Pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
5 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup ricotta
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 – 1.5 cups of salty pasta water*
400-500g of spaghettini or your favorite pasta
Italian parsley, chopped, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 F
Chop the cauliflower into small florets, the smaller they are the crispier they will be. Place cauliflower florets, garlic cloves and dried thyme on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Toss in a generous amount of olive oil so that everything is well coated and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the edges of the cauliflower are starting to brown, about 2o minutes, flipping half way through. Turn off the oven, but keep the cauliflower in there so it stays warm. It will continue to crisp up a little as well. Remove garlic
While the cauliflower is roasted, toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, then add the sliced shallots. Caramelize the shallots over medium heat until soft and dark brown.
Bring a large bot of salted water to a boil, and cook your pasta according to package instructions. **Reserve 1.5 cups of pasta water right before draining the pasta.
Remove the roasted garlic bulb from the skin and mash it with the back of a fork. Stir roasted garlic, fresh thyme and lemon zest into the ricotta. Season with salt and pepper. Add ricotta mixture to the shallots over medium heat. Add in pasta water 1/2 cup at a time and stir to combine. Add until desired creaminess, up to 1.5 cups. Add ricotta sauce to cooked pasta along with half the cauliflower and almonds. Serve in a large bowl with the remaining cauliflower and almonds on top. Garnish with lemon zest, chopped parsley and black pepper.
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