Don’t skip the bread crumbs on this pasta dish
This is a straightforward pasta — my favorite kind — with mostly basic pantry ingredients and a couple of things to wow it up. The bread crumbs (poor man’s parmesan!) might seem trivial, but don’t skip them. They add a wonderful, crunchy texture that really makes the dish. So grab your can opener — this pasta is dead-simple and it will feed a crowd.
I served this twice for dinner for two people and had it once for lunch. That’s six (really big) meals total, and there’s still a serving or two in the fridge! It makes excellent leftovers (obviously), but save the extra bread crumbs and add them fresh each time you serve it. Otherwise, they’ll get soggy.
Elizabeth Passarella is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a blog for people who love food and home cooking.
Pasta With Cauliflower, Sausage and Bread Crumbs
Water, for boiling
1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot or small onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 head cauliflower, cut into small, bite-size florets
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes
1 pound pasta, any shape
1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
1⁄2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small pieces
Start a large pot of water to boiling over high heat for the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot or onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute until it is soft and translucent, for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks.
When the sausage is almost cooked through, add the cauliflower, and season with salt and pepper. Push the cauliflower down into the pan so the florets have as much surface contact with the pan as possible. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower begins to brown slightly. If the pan is dry, add a splash of oil.
Turn the heat to medium-high and pour in the tomatoes. Scrape any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked through, for about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, boil the pasta. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and set it aside. Spread the bread crumbs onto a cookie sheet and run it under the broiler to lightly toast, or brown the bread crumbs in a dry skillet.
Transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce when the cauliflower is tender. Toss together, and then add the mozzarella.
Top each serving with bread crumbs, reserving extra bread crumbs for leftovers.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.