November 11th, 2009

And that's what's for Dinner Tonight: Pasta with Cauliflower & Fresh Ricotta

Photo: Martha Stewart

“And that’s what’s for dinner tonight!” Get it? It’s a reference. One that I wouldn’t have gotten before Oliver was born. But newborns = daytime TV and now I know that Rachel Ray ends every show with this signature line.

Yes. Rachel Ray. Truth be told, I’ve never really watched Rachel. I think of her as being a very different kind of cook than me (though, at the moment, I have a deep appreciation for 30-minute meals). But Rach is the best thing on at 10 am (she’s looking great these days!) and, from what I can tell, when she isn’t making crazy Italian-cheesy-beef-chili-mac and other wacky mash-ups, she whips up simple dishes with more appeal than I’d expect. This pasta dish was inspired by one.

I didn’t get Rachel’s exact recipe, though I’m sure it’s somewhere on her site (I can’t remember what day I saw her make this and Oliver’s about to wake, so no link for now). I just remember the basic mix of ingredients and knew that I had to make my own version of this simple fall pasta. I love the combo of cauliflower, thyme and fresh ricotta. It felt natural and unexpected at the same time. Lemon zest gives this earthy dish a delightful freshness.

This dish is great for little ones, too. Just use a pasta that beginner eaters can manage or be sure to cut bigger pasta into age-appropriate bites. Super healthy cauliflower easily mashes in with the ricotta–just beware that it can be a little gassy. Don’t overload little bellies with the cruciferous wonder.

Pasta with Cauliflower & Fresh Ricotta
inspired by Rachel Ray
(can be served to kids 8+ mos)


1 lb organic cut pasta (I used spirals)
1/4-1/2 c organic olive oil
2 organic onions
1 tsp salt
1 head organic cauliflower, washed and trimmed into florets
1/4 c white wine
zest of 2 organic lemons
2 tbsp organic thyme
1 c organic fresh ricotta
1/2 c organic parmesan
mugful of pasta cooking liquid
salt and pepper

1. Put a large pot of salted water on medium-high heat (about 6 qts water to 2 tbs salt). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, saving about a mugful of cooking water. Set pasta aside.

2. Heat 1/4 c of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. When hot, add onions and 1 tsp of salt. Saute until caramelized.

3. Place cauliflower florets on top of browned onions. Add wine and allow to bubble. Reduce heat to medium and cover pot, leaving lid slightly askew. You don’t want to seal the veggies in or they will steam. Leaving a little room for the steam to escape will help your cauliflower brown. Cook until soft and browned in spots. Check periodically: you may need to add up to as much as another 1/4 c of olive oil. About 10 minutes before your cauliflower is done (this doesn’t have to be exact!), add zest and thyme.

4. When cauliflower is done, take off the heat and add pasta. Stir in ricotta and parmesan. If the cheese is too thick, add some of the pasta cooking liquid. Do so in small increments until cheese is thinned to desired sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper to older kid and adult portions, and serve!

3 Responses

  1. Rosie says:

    Ha-ha…your post made me laugh as I remember those newborn days well. I watched daytime television shows (cooking and otherwise) that I previously snubbed my nose at. But the recipe looks great and with the lemon and thyme, sounds very fresh tasting. Thanks!

  2. stacie says:

    It’s delicious! (Or Yum-O! as Rach would say. LOL!) And, as for daytime TV, Rachel Ray is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m suddenly totally hooked on Days of Our Lives. What?! Go figure…

  3. [...] is to the cooking: boil liquid, mix in polenta, stir in cheese). This time, inspired by Rachel Ray (I told you—being home with an infant has turned me into a Rachel Ray and Days of our Lives [...]

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