This simple, satisfying pasta dish is the kind of food I used to cook pretty much exclusively. It’s a quick, pasta-based, one-dish meal, with little to no meat, not fried, and containing not a smidge of butter. This kind of meal served me, my schedule, and my cholesterol well for many years. But somehow, over the past couple of years or so, I’ve transitioned into making multiple dishes that are never ready at the same time, launching into complex recipes requiring odd gadgets, experimenting with meat, and going through embarrassing quantities of butter and frying oil. While I’ve been loving every minute of it, it’s also nice to return to my one-bowl roots.

This bowl contains everything you need for a delightful meal.

As simple as this recipe is, however, it did contain one new challenge for me: anchovies. They’ve just always seemed so . . . strange. Fishy. And strange. But Simply Recipes promised that they would wow with umami goodness, so I decided to trust her and jump into the world of tiny fishes used as seasoning.

I’m not sure I’ll turn into an anchovy fanatic any time soon, but the savory kick to the pasta was remarkable, even though you really couldn’t tell the anchovies were there.

Would you have known there were anchovies in these onions if I hadn't told you this recipe had anchovies? I didn't think so.

I added some chickpeas to up the protein—an old standby from my one-bowl pasta veggie meal days—and I probably would have added some spinach, too, if I hadn’t used up all my spinach adding it to other recipes that don’t call for it.

Pasta with cauliflower

From Simply Recipes

1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp anchovies packed in oil, minced (about 6 anchovies)
Olive oil
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
1 large head of cauliflower, core removed and discarded, florets coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped, or diced tomatoes, including juice [I omitted this]
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

* To make breadcrumbs, chop up about 3 slices of day old bread. Pulse in blender or food processor until you have small crumbs.

Toast crumbs in a little olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat until lightly browned. Remove crumbs from skillet and set aside.Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and anchovies. Crush the anchovies with the back of a spoon so that they smear well over the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Remove from heat. While you are cooking the onions, put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water) for the pasta on the stove to boil.

Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stir infrequently, allowing the cauliflower edges to brown. Cook until the cauliflower florets are lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes to the pan, and salt and pepper to taste. Dissolve tomato paste in 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to low. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and anchovies, stir to combine well. [This is where I added the chickpeas.] Cook, uncovered, on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender.

Cook the pasta, uncovered, in salted boiling water until just al dente, according to the pasta package’s cooking directions. Drain the pasta from the cooking water and add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower mixture. Stir in about half of the parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan (leave the rest for garnish on top).

Serves 4. Makes great leftovers as the flavors have more time to blend.

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