This is a pretty straightforward pasta—our favorite kind—with mostly basic ingredients and a couple of things to wow it up. The breadcrumbs (poor man's parmesan!) might seem trivial, but don't skip them. They add a wonderful, crunchy texture that really makes the dish.
We ate this twice for dinner (for two people) and once for lunch. That's six (really big) meals total. It's excellent left over, but save the extra breadcrumbs and add them fresh each time you serve it; otherwise, they'll get soggy.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot or small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 head cauliflower, cut into small, bite-sized florets
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 pound pasta (ours are lumaconi; rigatoni, ziti, penne, or farfalle would all work)
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Heat the olive oil in a large (14-inch if you have it) skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks.
(At this point, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.)
When the sausage is almost cooked through, add the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower begins to brown slightly. If the pan is very dry, depending on how much fat is in your sausage, you can add another splash of oil.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and pour in the tomatoes. Scrape any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan, bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
While the cauliflower mixture is cooking, boil the pasta. Also, spread the fresh breadcrumbs onto a cookie sheet and run under the broiler or brown in a skillet until toasted.
When the pasta is al dente, take a slotted spoon and transfer it to the pan with the cauliflower. Toss everything together, then add the cubes of mozzarella.
Top each serving with bread crumbs, reserving extra for leftovers.
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)