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Cauliflower Ragu with Pasta (The Chew)


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Rate this recipe 4.7/5 (3 Votes)


  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion (cut into 1/4-inch dice)
  • 3 cloves garlic (smashed and peeled)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
  • 1 pound fresh orecchiette
  • 1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs (fried in olive oil until golden brown)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (minced)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1 1/4 cups tepid water


Adapted from


Step 1

Halve the cauliflower. Cut off the leaves and reserve them. Cut out the core and reserve it. Cut the cauliflower into small bite-sized florets, reserving the stalks. Chop the core, stalks, and leaves.

In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and cauliflower leaves, stalks and core. Season with salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the leaves are just beginning to wilt, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower leaves are just tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Add the cauliflower florets, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup of pasta water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft and almost falling apart, about 22 to 25 minutes. Add a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons salt. Drop in the pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 2/3 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water to the cauliflower ragu and toss over medium heat until the pasta is well coated (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce).

Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of chili flakes, breadcrumbs and parsley and drizzle with olive oil.

For the Semolina Pasta: in a large bowl, add the flours and mix to combine. Make a well in the center of the flours. Add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Roll the dough into long dowels about 3 to 4 inches thick. Cut the dough into flat disks about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Press the center of each disk with your thumb to form saucer-shaped pasta. Place the orecchiette on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.

Helpful Tip:
- The cauliflower ragu can be prepared up to 3 days ahead. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate; reheat in a large pot over medium-low heat before adding the pasta.
- Substitute with store-bought, dried pasta!


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