Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pasta with Cauliflower-Tomato Sauce (Slow Cooker) and Flavorful Crumb Topping

As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate by Mari

Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower and Flavorful Crumb Topping
Yields 6 servings
Special equipment:  Electric slow cooker


1 small cauliflower (or 1/2 of very large cauliflower), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, (or 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces)
1 cup water
3 to 5 Tablespoons olive oil (divided use between sauce, and crumb topping)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, (or more)* crumbled
Pinch of crushed red pepper (I add very, very little. If you like it spicy, add more)
My additions:  
6 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, or more if you love them (drained and roughly chopped)
1 Tablespoon capers in brine, (or more to taste) drained
* I add a generous 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled

Crumb Topping:

1/3 cup plain dried bread crumbs (I use about 1/2 cup plain Panko crumbs)
2 Tablespoon olive oil (a little more if you increase the amount of crumbs)
4 anchovy fillets  (or substitute 3 cloves minced garlic and a bit of kosher or sea salt)
Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound (16 ounces) dried pasta;  fusilli, shells, or similar shape


-In the container of a medium to large slow cooker stir together the water, 2 to 3 Tablespoons oil, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and crushed red pepper. Set slower cooker to high, stir in the cauliflower cover and cook until the cauliflower is very tender (approximately 3 hours.)  Note, if you are sensitive to the odor of cauliflower as it cooks, place the cooker in laundry/utility room, enclosed garage, etc. ;)

-Just before sauce is finished, stir the chopped artichoke hearts and capers into the sauce and allow to heat through.
-Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. 
-While pasta cooks prepare the crumb topping: Heat the remaining 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet. Add the anchovies (or the minced garlic) and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while until the anchovies are dissolved (or garlic is golden brown and fragrant), stir in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently until the crumbs are a rich golden brown and crispy, a few minutes more. Watch carefully as they can go from perfect to burned in moments.  Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. (Crumb topping may be prepared ahead.)

To serve: Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with the crumbs and serve while piping hot.


Recipe adapted from cookbook author Michele Scicolone 
(as shared on