Cauliflower used to be boring — a crudité platter filler or dull companion to carrots and peas in a bag of frozen vegetables. But when scorched under high heat, the natural sugars caramelize, producing rich, complex, nutty flavors that transform cauliflower into a star of the table. We sear it for a pasta that draws on the pungent combination of garlic and anchovies in bagna càuda, a dip from Italy’s Piedmont region. Next, we lighten roasted florets with fresh dill, chives, and whole-grain mustard, and add texture with caraway-scented toasted bread crumbs. In Tel Aviv, we were pleasantly surprised when served a whole roasted head of cauliflower; at Milk Street, we adapted the recipe to be paired with a spicy Somali yogurt sauce.


Pasta With Seared Cauliflower and Garlic

Makes 4 servings

We draw on the flavors of bagna càuda — the sauce-like dip from Italy’s Piedmont region that is a harvest ritual — to pair pasta and skillet-seared cauliflower with the bold flavors of garlic and anchovies. The anchovies melt away, leaving behind a salty-savory tang, while butter and some of the pasta cooking water help create a quick pan sauce. Toasted pistachios add crunch; lemon juice and zest brighten the dish. Campanelle is a frilly, trumpet-shaped pasta that catches both cauliflower and sauce; other short pasta shapes, such as farfalle and cavatappi, also work well.

Stop cooking the pasta before it’s entirely al dente. The pasta will soften further when tossed with the sauce.

12 ounces campanelle or other short pasta

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

1 small cauliflower head (about 2½ pounds), cored and cut into 1-inch florets

8 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced anchovy fillets, plus 2 tablespoons anchovy oil

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced


½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, divided

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt and cook until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pistachios and cook, stirring, until fragrant and bright green, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat over medium until shimmering. Add half of the cauliflower and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Return the pan to medium heat and repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining cauliflower, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Return all of the cauliflower to the pan. Stir in the garlic, anchovies and oil, rosemary, pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is softened and the anchovies have disintegrated, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Toss in the pasta and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook, tossing, until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta, about 1 minute.

Off heat, stir in the lemon juice and all but 1 tablespoon of the pistachios. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios, the parsley, and the lemon zest.


Roasted Cauliflower With Caraway and Buttered Bread Crumbs

Makes 8 servings

Roasted cauliflower with caraway and buttered bread crumbs.
Roasted cauliflower with caraway and buttered bread crumbs.Connie Miller (custom credit)/Connie Miller of CB Creatives

The cauliflower can be cut into florets and stored in zip-close bags for up to two days before roasting. The bread crumbs can be processed, toasted, cooled and stored the same way one day ahead.

Don’t crowd all of the cauliflower onto a single baking sheet. Use two rimmed baking sheets so the florets brown nicely and do not steam. Leave the cauliflower undisturbed as it roasts, which allows it to caramelize more deeply. To keep the bread crumbs crisp after coating the roasted cauliflower, serve on a large platter rather than in a bowl.

2 2-pound cauliflower heads, leaves trimmed, cored, and cut into 1½- to 2-inch florets

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter

½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

¼ cup whole-grain mustard

¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

Heat the oven to 500 degrees with racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the oil and 2 teaspoons salt. Divide between the prepared baking sheets in even layers (arrange cut sides down as much as possible); reserve the bowl. Roast until the cauliflower is well browned and a paring knife inserted into the largest piece meets no resistance, 15 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating the pans halfway through; do not stir during roasting.


Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the panko and caraway until finely ground, about 20 seconds. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the panko mixture and cook, stirring, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, then stir in the paprika and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.

Add the mustard, dill, and chives to the bowl used for the cauliflower and stir to combine. When the cauliflower is done, carefully lift the long edges of each foil sheet and slide the cauliflower into the mustard mixture. Using a silicone spatula, gently toss until the florets are evenly coated. Sprinkle the crumbs over the cauliflower and gently stir to coat. Transfer to a platter and serve warm.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Makes 4 servings

A head of cauliflower roasted whole and brought to the table uncut makes a striking side dish. Blanching it in heavily salted water before roasting ensures the vegetable is seasoned to its core and reduces roasting time. Cooking times are for a 2-pound cauliflower; larger ones retain more water and take longer to roast.

We like this served as is, but it’s also delicious drizzled with tahini, Sriracha, or spicy Basbaas (see the following recipe.)


Don’t wait for the water to return to a boil after adding the cauliflower before you start timing the 5-minute blanch. If the cauliflower remains longer, it will absorb too much water. Also, don’t roast without first draining for 10 minutes. If roasted right away, the retained water creates a soggy texture.

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2-pound head cauliflower, leaves trimmed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the upper-middle position. In a 6- to 8-quart pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add ½ cup salt to the water, then carefully lower the cauliflower into the pot. Cook for 5 minutes (start timing immediately), flipping the cauliflower with a spoon after 2 minutes. Transfer to a colander, stem side down, and drain for 10 minutes.

Transfer, again stem side down, to a baking dish. Rub the top with the oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon pepper. Roast, spooning any oil that accumulates in the dish over the cauliflower and rotating the dish once or twice, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center meets no resistance, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve in the baking dish with Basbaas.

Spicy Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce (Basbaas)

Makes 1 cup

This simple yogurt-based Somali hot sauce packs a spicy, herbal punch. If you’re a fan of chili heat, use the seeds of some — or all — of the serranos. The flavor is best with the richness of whole-milk yogurt, so avoid fat-free or low-fat yogurt.

½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

3 serrano chilies, stemmed and seeded

1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth and bright green, about 1 minute. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.