whole wheat pasta with cauliflower, walnuts and ricotta salata

April 4th, 2008 · 30 Comments


people, i know what you’re thinking. but i’m telling you – do not fear the whole wheat pasta. i totally understand that it’s not for everyday, and that it’s not a substitution from hereon in. it is quite simply, an entity unto itself… and this dish really is a whole wheat pasta kinda dish. and quite honestly, when alice waters talks? this pasta lover listens… and yes, there are brands and there are brands… and dear readers, if it wasn’t a rainy day i would so go out and buy 9 different kinds of ww pasta and boil them all up separately and do a ww pasta taste test for you. but i know you wouldn’t want all that high humidity and precipitation to ruin my perfect coiffe and makeup. so you’ll have to go it on your own. but anyway, for the record i used ‘de cecco’s penne rigate’ and we liked it just fine.


(a fine ww pasta, if i do say…)

i had read deb’s post over at smitten kitchen and then ordered alice’s book, chez panisse vegetables. since spring is about to bust forth from mother earth and once again i will dealing with the over abundance of locally grown produce, this would be a good time for some of alice’s inspiration on the vegetable front. when i got to cooking, i used just one large head of cauliflower and half the pasta and it served 4 easily.

whole wheat pasta with cauliflower, walnuts and ricotta salata
chez panisse vegetables
by the one and only alice waters

2 heads cauliflower
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 pound whole-wheat pasta
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
grated or crumbled ricotta salata

put a large pot of water on to boil. cut the cauliflower into small flowerets. peel the onion and slice it very thin. peel and finely chop the garlic. put the pasta on to cook. saute the cauliflower in olive oil in a large saute pan. when the cauliflower begins to soften, season with salt and pepper and add the sliced onion and red pepper flakes. saute over medium to high heat until the vegetables are brown and tender. the cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy and should not taste steamed. add the garlic and remove from the heat, tossing and stirring so the garlic doesn t burn; if it starts to brown, add a splash of water. add a few drops each of vinegar and lemon juice and the toasted walnuts. taste and correct the seasoning. when the pasta is done, drain and add to the cauliflower, adding enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the pasta thoroughly, toss together and serve, with the cheese crumbled over the dish.


every single ingredient in this dish shines unusually brightly. it is somehow the classic example of the whole being better than the sum of its parts. i’ll be making this again.

a rarity when you’re a food blogger…

Tags: pasta

30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 deb // Apr 4, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Just looking at that make me miss it. I don’t think I have ever made the same thing three times in a month, even pre-food blog, but this might be worth it.

  • 2 Lesley // Apr 4, 2008 at 11:45 am

    The rave reviews from you and Deb are making me rethink my dislike of cauliflower.

    I use whole wheat pasta about 90% of the time. It’s more filling and more nutritious and I’ve just gotten used to it. Eating white pasta now makes me feel like I’m eating candy. Same goes for white rice.

    Ricotta salata? I’m going to have to look that up.

  • 3 Mary Coleman // Apr 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

    That looks so YU…oh wait, you hate that word.
    Let me start over. DAMN!!
    How was that?

  • 4 Holiday Grinch // Apr 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    First thought: Deja vu?
    Second thought: Thanks for reminding me that I saw it at SK and want to make it.
    Third thought: It must be REALLY good.

  • 5 fluffernutter // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I’m with Lesley — we eat Barilla plus (whole grains and bean flour) and whole wheat. Once you grow accustomed to the chewy texture, white pasta is like white bread. This just sounds great — I love cauli, walnerts, and am warming to ricotta salata. I had a badly cured batch of it once and it smelled of baby spit-up. Wonder if I could use some other cheese?

  • 6 Peter // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I like whole wheat spaghetti best, I think. It seems less mealy somehow. We made a version of this a while back with caramelized onions and orange zest- next time I’m definitely putting cauliflower in.

  • 7 Chris // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Looks wonderful, makes me reconsider the cauliflower of my childhood, which was solely a delivery medium for Velveeta…

  • 8 claudia // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    deb – cary specifically looked at me and said, does this mean now we’ll never eat this again?

    lesley – there’s white pasta and there’s white pasta… and some tastes much better than the other. i promise. of course it costs more too. and then there’s fresh pasta… i am close to buying a pasta roller… ricotta salata is one of my faves. think of dry ricotta cheese.

    mary – i’ll take DAMN over the Y word anytime…

    holiday – it tis it tis – i am serious…

    fluff – alice says you can use feta, but i much prefer the ricotta salata in this one. it’s creamier. nothing like baby spit-up. i promise…

    peter – caramalized onion and orange rind… nice one. cauliflower would be right at home in that dish… it surprises me to hear you say that about regular pasta vs. whole wheat! interesting…

    chris – as an adult it makes me wonder why we loved velvetta so much. now i think – why would anyone ruin perfectly good cauliflower with that glop?

  • 9 The Italian Dish // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    You got to me on this one. I love cauliflower in a pasta dish. When we eat whole wheat pasta, we eat the Barilla Plus. We think it has the best taste. This is going in my “to make” pile. Thanks.

  • 10 Donald // Apr 4, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    That looks really good. I ate sooooooo much ww pasta when I was on the SB diet. I don’t know if I could do it again. I may try this though.

    It is hard for me to make pasta dishes sans meat of some kind.

  • 11 evil chef mom // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I have made this alot in the past couple months and had to stop because all the little sous chef “enough!” I think it’s time to make it again.

  • 12 jim voorhies // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    ricotta salata? Hmmm. Again with the interesting stuff I’ve never heard of.

    Get the pasta maker, C – even if you get one that hooks onto your stand mixer or food processor. You don’t have to hand crank. Home made pasta is like finally realizing there’s a difference between Morton Salt and other stuff. (hides blue box in the pantry).

  • 13 Peter // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I meant less mealy than other types of whole wheat pasta, not white.

  • 14 robin // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I think I’m going the have to get the book. When I saw Deb’s post I told myself I’d have to get it and then I forgot. Thanks for the reminder!

    And oh, god, isn’t ricotta salata wonderful? And good for you!

    I really like DeCecco too. I really don’t see the point in spending a lot on dried pasta, it tastes mostly the same to me. Fresh though, is a different story.

  • 15 lauren // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    so i’ve been ignoring my computer except for extreme cases of homework. i’ve missed SO MUCH! this pasta looks fantastic. now i’m hungry again.

  • 16 pogo // Apr 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Looks great, though I would be sorely tempted to roast the cauliflower in the oven and add to the dish at the very end…

  • 17 Jeff // Apr 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    So now I leave my whole first name for the first time and it’s because this is a truly great dish and also, C, because you let me know I haven’t been cooking like I should and want to. THANKS FOR THIS. So good.

  • 18 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Apr 4, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    This meal would be my husband’s worst nightmare. He hates wheat, walnuts and cheese!

    I almost spit out my gulp of Jagermeister I was laughing so hard when I opened your blog page. Just for shits and giggles, I think I’ll tell him this is what we’re having on Sunday. Just to see the color drain from his face. Ha!

    Me on the other hand – I think it looks really super yummers! Hey, have you tried the Barilla “Plus” multigrain pasta? It’s not bad. It’s my new “healthy” obsession. I can actually eat it in the afternoon and not fall asleep. In fact, I get energy from it. Pasta. Who knew.

  • 19 Kim // Apr 5, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Both you and Deb sure do make cauliflower look ……….like something I want to go out and fix right away. Seconds please……..

  • 20 annie // Apr 5, 2008 at 9:40 am

    You know, this is something I might actually get the guys to eat that would actually not bore me to tears. I have had complaints about whole wheat pasta in the past, but sometimes I have great success by simply uttering the words “it was in the recipe.” I love all the things that are in it, particularly ricotta salata, and I’m feeling emboldened….

  • 21 Mari // Apr 5, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I wish DBF didn’t detest whole genus Brassica, I’ll just have to clip this recipe for a ladies night.

  • 22 Quickthink » Blog Archive » My Head of Cauliflower Hurts // Apr 5, 2008 at 11:15 am

    […] the Lord, Cook EatFret (fromNashville)saunters into my kitchen withan idea – damnit man, CEf says, make whole wheat […]

  • 23 Emily // Apr 5, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    We’re hooked on whole wheat pasta here!

  • 24 Julie // Apr 6, 2008 at 5:42 am

    You’re making me think I need to give whole wheat pasta a try…

  • 25 lifeinrecipes // Apr 6, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    If you can find it ,try the Bionaturae brand. It’s my favorite .

  • 26 lifeinrecipes // Apr 6, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    O duh. I see that you have it linked! Well, I love it – not gritty like some of the others.

  • 27 lucy // Apr 6, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    i like the way “ricotta salata” sounds.
    ricotta salata.

  • 28 melissa // Apr 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I love cauliflower. not sure how I missed your few recent posts, but I’m glad I saw this one. it’s goin on my list.

  • 29 The Spotted Apron // May 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

    i love it! and you are right about the various brands of whole wheat pasta, getting the right one makes a difference.

  • 30 cook eat FRET - dinner on a budget // Jan 26, 2009 at 10:10 am

    […] a version of this recipe from alice waters that i made last april. sans cheese and the oil was cut to probably about 1/8 the amount i’d […]

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