Sometimes the best things happen by accident. I’m talking about the inspiration that hit when a bag of frozen artichoke hearts fell out of the freezer, that kind of “ah-ha” moment. You laugh, but cooking to me is an art. It’s one that is unselfish and fleeting (unless it is captured on the pages of a blog), it’s designed to bring pleasure to others but is gone in a few hours. And so, like a good painting, I don’t really have a recipe. This recipe was completely spontaneous; I made it up as I went along. If you always cook from a recipe, try it sometime. It is very freeing. Pasta is one of those dishes that will lend itself to this kind of spontaneity because it is a blank canvas. Of course there are many wonderful classical dishes, but then those last minute “clean out the fridge or freezer” dishes can also be delicious.
So, frozen artichokes in hand, I went searching for what else might be lurking about needing to be added to my work of art. The fridge had half a head of cauliflower, a red pepper, and some Parmigiano Reggiano, the counter a jar of Parmesan oil, and in the cupboard I found half used packages of penne and fusilli. I always have onions and garlic available. Ready to go.
Pasta with Cauliflower, Artichoke Hearts, and Parmesan Oil
- 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and drained well on paper towels
- 1/2 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil – divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- About 3/4 pound of pasta of your choice. I had 1/3 box of penne and 1/3 box of fusilli left in the cupboard.
- Parmesan oil, or good olive oil for finishing
- Freshly grated Parmesan for serving.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat for your pasta, start this first since the rest will cook fairly quickly.
- When boiling, add your pasta. If they have different cooking times, stagger adding them so they finish at the same time. Turn down the heat if it looks like it will boil over (the starch in the pasta sometimes does that). Cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water before draining, do not rinse.
- Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium high heat in a very large skillet.
- Add the chopped onions and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Turn down the heat if it is browning too quickly.
- Turn the heat down to medium (if you haven’t done this already) and add the garlic, sauté for about a minute, then add the red pepper. When the pepper begins to soften, turn the contents of the skillet into a large heatproof bowl.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet on medium high heat. When shimmering, add the cauliflower. Cook for about 5 minutes or until beginning to caramelize. Add the red pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes until they soften. Turn the cauliflower and red pepper into the bowl with the onions.
- Add the artichoke hearts to the skillet. Move the artichoke hearts down against the bottom of the skillet so they begin to brown. You may need to add a touch more oil at this point. Cook for anther minute or so.
- Add the onions, garlic, cauliflower, and red pepper back to the skillet. Stir.
- Add the pasta. Toss again and slowly add some of the reserved cooking water to moisten the mix. You don’t want it swimming but don’t want it to be dry. The starch in the cooking water will help bind things together.
- Turn into a warm serving bowl.
- When serving, drizzle with Parmesan oil or good quality olive oil and shred some fresh parmesan on top of each.
Serve with a tossed green salad.
I’m taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #91. Come join the fun at a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie of The Novice Gardener. The co-hosts this week are Juju @ cookingwithauntjuju and Indira @ I’ll Cook, You Wash.