Crispy Cauliflower and Kale Penne

serves 4-6

recipe from The Pasta Friday Cookbook 

  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 2 large bunches tuscan kale, stems trimmed, ribs and leaves finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (I used Parmesan)

Fill a 6-quart pot with water. Bring it to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and 1 teaspon of salt, and stir. Cook without stirring for 5 minutes. Stir, then cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes more, until goldn brown but not burnt. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until slightly firmer than al dente, 1 minute less than it says on the package. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, pour the remaining olive oil into the pot you cooked the cauliflower in and decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the kale walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Add the stock and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the kale is soft and wilted. Add the pasta and butter, and toss to combine, adding the cooking water if it looks dry. Top with the grated cheese.