Spicy Cauliflower Rigatoni

MMMM cauliflower.  Cauliflower originated in the Northern Mediterranean region.  It dates back further than you can imagine.  It comes in many varieties and colors.  The most common types in Italy are white, Romanesco, various brown, green, purple, and yellow,  Cauliflower is very popular in Sicilian cuisine, although its usually the light green variety, which can be found in some farmers markets throughout the US.  Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates and super high in fiber, folate and vitamin C. 

It is pretty amazing anyway you cook it.   Roasted, grilled, boiled, steamed.....even fried.  (Have you ever had deep fried cauliflower???  No?  You haven't lived....) Nestled in Garnet Valley, PA, about 30 minutes outside Philly is an indoor farmers market, complete with PA's own Amish, called Booth's Corner Farmers Market.  There is this little stand in there that deeps fries just about every kind of veggie you can find.  The deep fried cauliflower is by far, in my opinion, the best.....dipped in cheese sauce......oh......my......God......

Okay, I'm getting off track.  Point here is, that cauliflower is amazing.  It's especially amazing sauteed and put in a light and robust pasta sauce.  My grandfather actually made this for me growing up.  Try as I may, I can't get his down exactly, but I make a damn good attempt. This recipe livens up the cauliflower with some heat.  Dried pepperoncini flakes give it just enough kick that's enough for your heat seekers and not too much for your wuss'.  It's not saucy, just a light thin sauce that gets absorbed gloriously by the rigatoni.  

Spicy Cauliflower Rigatoni

Prep:  15 minutes
Cook:  25 minutes
Total Time:  45 minutes
Serves 4-6

2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 tsp dried pepperoncini
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 ladlefull startchy pasta water
1 lb Rigatoni
1/2 cup grated Parmiggiano


Place water into pasta pot and put on high heat with a lid.  Allow to come to a full boil while you prepare the next few steps.

Wash cauliflower and remove green leaves and center core.  Chop cauliflower into bite size florets.  You don't want them bigger than your pasta.

In a large, deep skillet, place 2 TBSP olive oil in the pan over medium high heat.  Drop in 1 tsp of pepperoncini flakes and allow them to toast.

While the pepper flakes are toasting up, chop an onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic.  Add to oil with 1 tsp of salt and sautee gently until translucent.

Add in the cauliflower, butter, black pepper, dried basil and dried thyme and sautee until several pieces of cauliflower get a deep golden color.

Add the chicken stock and reduce heat to a light simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the cauliflower is cooking evenly.  

Drop your pasta in heavily salted boiling water.

Add a ladelfull of the salty, startchy pasta water to the cauliflower sauce.  Continue to simmer until pasta is about 2 minutes from being al dente.

Drain pasta and drop directly into cauliflower sauce.  Crank the heat on high and stir continuously until most of the sauce has been absorbed into the rigatoni.  This usually takes about 1 or 2 minutes.

Turn the heat off and add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmiggiano.  Toss gently to combine and serve.  Top with additional parmiggiano if desired.


Krissi Biasiello is a native of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Cooking since she was a little girl with her large Italian family, she decided to leave her paralegal job and shoot for the stars on FOX’s cooking competition show, MasterChef.  She beat out 43,000 homecooks across America and came in 4th place.  Under the scrutiny of Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich, Krissi has made her mark in the culinary world.  She now shares her recipes with all of you!  Her rustic, homestyle take on everything will win you over and will definitely “get your asses in the kitchen”. 

To contact Krissi for appearances, in-home demonstrations, catering and more, you can find her below.  

Rotund Chef - Website
Rotund Chef - Facebook
Rotund Chef - Twitter
Rotund Chef - Instagram
Rotund Chef - Pinterest


Popular Posts