Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Capers
October heralds the start of my favorite dinner party season. After months of standing outside, getting nipped by mosquitoes, a condiment-heavy hot dog in one hand and smeared rosé glass in the other, I look forward to sitting and eating around my dining room table with a knife and fork. The guest list doesn’t change, merely the location and what’s on the menu.
Cooler weather taps into my cravings for heartier fare, and I’m happy to turn on the oven again. Of all the fall vegetables, it’s the return of my beloved cauliflower and its elegant florets that I celebrate the most. I adore cauliflower in all of its preparations, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be roasted. There’s a nuttiness that is coaxed out during its time in the oven that brings me to my knees. For a crowd-pleaser at any party, I combine sheet pan–roasted cauliflower with pasta along with some crispy capers for salty crunch; anchovies (just a few) for umami depth; sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes for oomph, and lemon zest for brightness.
This recipe calls for the standard white cauliflower, but if you happen to see the purple or orange “cheddar” variety, by all means grab them for presentation’s sake. (I’ve also used half the traditional amount of pasta here, which I know some of you might question, but please trust me here. The pasta is a vehicle for the vegetables and the sauce—not the other way around. Plus, now you can add garlic bread back to your menu, should you choose.) Since it’s acceptable to drink red wine again, I’d pair this dish with one that is light and bright with good acid, such as a Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Gamay, which are both reliably food-friendly. So sit back, settle in, build a fire, and have some good friends over.
Fall is here, and I’m here for it.