This is one of those recipes that I had no intention of posting here: I mean, tossing leftovers with pasta and baking it all together is quick, convenient, often delicious, but hardly revolutionary. You don’t really need me to tell you that some meat, vegetables and cheese, tossed with pasta and baking until bubbly, is almost sure to be a crowd pleaser. But this dish was so surprisingly good I decided that I had to share.
I didn’t really have high expectations: I mean, who puts cauliflower in baked pasta? But what I did have was a business trip to DC, a husband who doesn’t cook, and a random collection of ingredients that were not going to survive the week until my return. I came across this baked pasta dish recently, on the very lovely blog The Year in Food (it was the homemade salt that drew me in: so have to do that one of these days) and because I was so intrigued by the idea of fresh chickpeas (although the voice in my head said, “Fresh chickpeas? Yeah, right. You can’t even find fresh fava beans. Call me when the Clue Train pulls in.), the recipe stuck in my memory. So while I was perusing the larder on my last night at home, trying to envision the recipe that would turn grape tomatoes, leftover crumbled chorizo, and the other half of this orange cauliflower into dinner, I thought Kimberley’s baked pasta with cherry tomatoes. I said to myself, “Hey, I even have ricotta!”; then I opened the ricotta. I did have ricotta: it was just, well, orange. And pretty nasty smelling. Oops.
So no ricotta. But I did have a block of farmstead cheese and some of the lovely Sprout Creek Ouray. We have yet to get a killing frost and my herbs are still going strong: a good handful of thyme leaves added a nice herby dimension to the dish. But the really interesting thing about this dish was that each individual ingredient shined: the gobetti was chewy, almost crunchy on top, and nicely coated with chorizo-cheese-herb flavor; the cauliflower was tender and seemed to soak up a lot of the flavor of the other ingredients; the grape tomatoes were perfectly roasted, shriveled and hot, but bursting (literally) with juice & flavor. Everything worked well together, nothing was lost in a mound of gooey cheese, no one ingredient stole the show. This pasta dish was a true ensemble cast: brought together on a whim, each player executed his or her role perfectly. Bravo, pasta dish. Bravo.
Inspired by Baked Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Fresh Chickpeas by Kimberley at The Year in Food
- 1/2 lb (dry) gobetti pasta (I used whole wheat; any corkscrew pasta will work)
- 1/2 head cauliflower, stem removed and broken into small florets
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
- 2 fresh chorizo sausages
- 6 oz (1 cup) soft farmstead cheese, grated
- 1 oz (1/4 cup) parmesan, Ouray, or other hard cheese, grated
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, stir once, then cover pot until the water returns to a boil. Uncover the pasta and cook at a boil until just barely al dente (maybe slightly undercooked), about 5 – 6 minutes for whole wheat pasta. Drain water and reserve pasta.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove casing from sausages, crumble and brown in a large skillet (one with plenty of room for the sausages) over medium-high heat. Transfer sausage to a 9″ X 13″ casserole dish. Add pasta, tomatoes, and cauliflower; toss to mix. Pull leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle over the pasta; sprinkle basil, oregano, salt, pepper and about half of each cheese. Toss well to mix thoroughly. Spread the remaining cheese across the top of the pasta, add a few more sprinkles of dried herbs & pepper, and bake in the preheated oven until cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
- My first impression was that the pasta lacked creaminess and I wished I had had some ricotta. (Well, viable ricotta). But after eating second and third(!) helpings, I decided it was great as it was. That said, I’m guessing about a 1/4 cup of ricotta would be fine.
- If you can’t find fresh chorizo, try to find a hot Italian fresh sausage: you could use cured chorizo, but I would dice it into small, 1/4-inch cubes, and it also will not have as much fat with which to flavor the dish; you might want to add a tablespoon or two of good olive oil.
- My original thought for a chickpea replacement was a small dice of butternut squash; I still think that would be good, but I do think it could be hard to get exactly the right size dice for a good texture, not too mushy but not overcooked, especially with a 20 minute baking time.
- If you are need of a kitchen project, consider making homemade corkscrew pasta: made with local flour, this dish would be 100% local!
Refrigerated, up to 5 days. Unlike many pasta dishes, this one tastes better on the 2nd day!
Late summer to Fall.