March 01, 2015

Pasta & Cauliflower with Brown Butter and Sage

Sometimes really great dishes come simply out of the desire to avoid wasting food. I can't remember quite what I was cooking last week, but I do know that I turned my back on it for a moment, and the butter I was melting turned nutty and golden brown. Which was exactly what I didn't want. While inventing new curse-words, I poured the hot, browned butter off into a shell of tinfoil, wiped out the pan, and started again. Then later, when I was cleaning up, I looked at it and thought - there's got to be a use for that.

There's rather a lot of browned butter recipes flying around on the internet - everything from muffins to frosting to ice cream, but I wanted something simple - something I could do on a weeknight, when I get home at seven o'clock, starving and wanting easy answers. Pasta naturally sprang to mind.

Pasta with brown butter sauce (and sage) is a classic Italian dish. In my experience, it is almost always long noodles that are served this way, and that was my original plan, too. Then I realized that I had a half-head of cauliflower that was quietly aging in the crisper, and decided to go for a short, chunky pasta instead.

It's a pity you cannot see the sage in this - it seemed to mostly drift to the bottom of the skillet (probably because I shredded it), and what didn't hide beneath the pasta and roasted cauliflower, quickly got snowed under with a thick blanket of parmesan. If I had been less hungry, I might have arranged it more attractively, but nope.

This was a dish that used up leftover cauliflower (freshly roasted), accidental brown butter, and a weird pasta shape that I had already lurking in my refrigerator. The fact that it was also delicious made it into end-zone dance category.

I also served this with lamb cutlets (not pictured), because it seemed like a nice combination. They were delicious, but probably unnecessary. If I were serving this as a a vegetarian entree, I think I might add a few toasted pine nuts, as well, for heartiness (and delightful crunchiness).

Pasta & Cauliflower with Brown Butter and Sage

Serves 2

100 grams short pasta
2 tablespoons browned butter
1 small handful fresh sage leaves, in chiffonade
1/2 small head of cauliflower (freshly roasted with olive oil and a good pinch of salt)
parmesan cheese for finishing

Cut up the cauliflower until the pieces are just slightly chunkier than the pasta you are using. Toss well with a little olive oil and a big pinch of coarse salt, and roast at 400 F for 20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork (and ideally, golden brown where they touch the pan - a metal pan works best for this).

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat up the water to boil the pasta, and warm the browned butter (or, starting from scratch, brown the butter) in a medium skillet. Add the sage leaves to the butter once the pasta is almost cooked.

Cook the pasta to your preference (remembering to salt the water), and then, using a wire skimmer/spider spoon it into the brown butter and sage. Stir well. Add the roasted cauliflower to the pan, stirring gently but thoroughly to get everything coated with the browned butter. Dust thoroughly with freshly grated parmesan, and serve.

Leftovers reheated beautifully in a microwave.

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