potluck pasta party

in the face of living in a very transient town, my friends and i opt for tradition. in a city ruled by politics, we vote potluck! starting about three years ago, my girlfriends and i made it a point to make time for a family meal as often as we could. the goal is to meet once a week, and though some months we do better than others, potlucks have become our north star of sorts. our potlucks range anywhere from two to eight girls, with each of us rotating as host for that week's dinner. we're the biggest fans of each other's cooking, with each dinner peppered with gushing over how good each bite is.

we hardly ever coordinate a structured menu. so long as someone raises their hand to bring the wine, we take our chances with the rest. sometimes this works out wonderfully, and sometimes - like our latest potluck - we end up with three variations of pasta, so it's sublime. i was one of the guilty parties for bringing a pasta dish, so my cauliflower with caper crumbs was nestled on a plate alongside meatball and sausage ragu and vegetable lasagna...not to mention a spicy vegetarian chili and pumkin pie for dessert. 

in honor of the release of her book, small victories, julia made available a potluck menu which is nothing short of perfection. so for this recipe, i relied on a variation to her potluck cauliflower with anchovy bread crumbs. her original recipe was just simply for a side dish of roasted cauliflower topped with crumbles of anchovy bread crumbs. now, the beauty behind julia's small victories cookbook is that for each recipe, she suggests a myriad of variations. for this one, i took her up on the idea of mixing this with pasta and subbing anchovies for capers since we have a vegetarian in our crew. 

like julia, i so deeply believe that food is meant to be shared; it shoudn't be fussy or pretentious. food should nourish, and there's no better way to feel nourished in your belly and in your soul than to share a meal with those you love. 

pasta and cauliflower with caper bread crumbs

recipe by julia turshen

serves four
what you'll need:

1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped into small florets
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
1 box spaghetti noodles (or pasta of your choosing)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup capers, in liquid
1 1/2 cups coarse bread crumbs, plus 2 tbsp for serving
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
finely grated parmesan cheese, to taste

what you'll do:

  1. preheat oven to 425°F. line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. in medium-sized bowl, mix the cauliflower florets with 3 tbsp of olive oil and salt. once cauliflower is evenly coated, pour onto prepared baking sheet. roast, removing from oven to toss occasionally and carefully, until the cauliflower is tender and browned. this should take about 40 minutes. transfer back to medium-sized mixing bowl.
  3. as your cauliflower roasts, bring a large, well-salted pot of water to boil. cook pasta until just before al dente, about six minutes. remove from heat and drain, but hold a reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water. 
  4. drizzle 3 tbsp of olive oil into a large heavy skillet over medium heat. add the garlic and capers and cook, stirring, for about 7-8 minutes. pour in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they’ve absorbed all of the oil and are brown and a bit crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pepper.
  5. into this large heavy skillet over medium heat, toss in your pasta, reserve pasta water and roasted cauliflower. stir continuously with wooden spoon. mix in parmesan cheese.
  6. once pasta water is fully absorbed, pour into serving bowl. toss with the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, then top with sprinkles of bread crumb, parmesan cheese and parsley. serve immediately.   

and psssst...as you're chopping your cauliflower, i strongly recommend this bon appetit podcast episode for pre-pasta listening. in it, the BA test kitchen chimes in on all the pasta cooking tips you need to know. so, so helpful.