Breadcrumbs usually lie like a lazy blanket on top of pasta or casseroles. For this quick dish, I toasted them up in flavored olive oil, tossed them with roasted cauliflower, and let them shine as a main ingredient.
I then slowly heated garlic and anchovy filets in some olive oil until the anchovies dissolved. Don't worry if you aren't an anchovies-on-pizza kind of person. This process leaves no fishy taste behind — just a deep, salty background.
This was just the recipe I needed to take me out of my pasta-and-tomato-sauce rut! It has just the right combination of savory, salty flavors, with an unbelievable crunch from the breadcrumbs. Should you choose to add them (or add extra like I did), red pepper flakes provide the perfect touch of heat.
There was once a time when I'd cringe and without question exclude anchovies if I saw them in an ingredient list. Thankfully times have changed, and my feelings about anchovies are much different these days. And good thing, because they add such a nice flavor to this dish that really brings everything together. What you get from the anchovies is more a hint of saltiness and savory umami — not a flavor that resembles anything fishy.
I love that Elizabeth uses farfalle in this recipe. It's just the right shape, with tiny nooks and crannies to capture the seasoned breadcrumbs, so you get plenty of crunch in every bite.
1 medium head of cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-sized florets
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound farfalle, or bow tie-shaped pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced 3 anchovy filets
1 cup panko or dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and spread it on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring the florets halfway through, until the cauliflower is cooked through and beginning to brown.
Cook pasta according to directions, making sure to salt the water.
Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and anchovy filets, stirring often to help the anchovies break down. Add the breadcrumbs, increase the heat to medium, and toast for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the cauliflower to the pan with the breadcrumbs. Cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the red pepper flakes.
Drain the cooked pasta and add to the sauté pan (or toss everything in a large bowl if your pan won't hold it all). Season generously with salt and pepper, and add a few more swirls of olive oil if the mixture seems dry. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
This recipe has been updated - originally posted March 2008.