Cauliflower Pesto Pasta

posted in: Pasta, Vegetarian        date:

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta

Our sweet Clara is celebrating her third birthday tomorrow. We’ve been busy trying to finish up house projects (like that staircase remodel that just won’t end) before her party, so our dinners have been mostly quick and easy – leftover soup from the freezer, slow-cooker meals, etc. One meal I can always count on being well received is pesto and pasta, and it’s certainly one of the easiest dinners we make.

Clara is a huge fan of pesto and loves helping me make it. Of course, I think part of the reason she enjoys making it so much is that she gets to lick the spatula when we’re finished. I had some cauliflower leftover from the roasted vegetable chopped salads, so it was sort of serendipitous when I flipped right to this recipe while browsing my cookbooks for dinner inspiration.

This is one of those meals where the payoff is even better because of the very minimal effort required. Everything is pulsed in the food processor. Boil some water for the pasta, and you’re set. Seriously. That’s it. You’ve got a bright, flavorful meal with hardly any work. Bonus: this meal is one of those that transitions from winter to spring really well. We’re in that “sick of winter but no spring produce is out yet” time, and this pasta will definitely help get you over that hurdle.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta

  • YIELD: 6-8 servings
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 pound), cored and cut into chunks

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes

  • ½ cup almonds or pine nuts, toasted and cooled

  • 2-ounce chunk of Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

  • 4 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

  • ⅓ cup olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

  • 1 pound linguine or other pasta


This recipe makes enough for 1 pound of pasta. As I typically do when making pesto, I freeze half and only cook ½ pound of pasta. The recipe calls for dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes. If you can only find oil-packed, drain well and chop them by hand so they don’t get gummy in the food processor.

  • 1

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

    To prepare the pesto, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like couscous. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches. Transfer to a large bowl. You should have about 3½ cups.

  • 2

    Pulse the garlic, red pepper flakes, almonds, cheese, tomatoes (*see note), capers and parsley in the food processor until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to the bowl with the cauliflower. Add the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of vinegar. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and the remaining ½ teaspoon of vinegar if desired.

  • 3

    Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving one cup of the cooking water before draining.

    Toss the hot pasta with the pesto and about half of the reserved cooking water. If the pesto still feels too thick, continue adding water until the pesto is evenly dispersed. Serve immediately with Parmesan grated on top.