Penne with Cauliflower, Tomatoes, and Basil

Preparation info

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    • Difficulty


Appears in

Lighter, Quicker, Better: Cooking for the Way We Eat Today

Lighter, Quicker, Better

By Richard Sax and Marie Simmons

Published 2000

  • About

To save trouble, we cook the cauliflower right in the pasta water. This is a good trick whenever you’re combining pasta with a vegetable that needs to be boiled or blanched. Combining sundried with fresh plum tomatoes reinforces the tomato flavor.


  • 2 cups finely chopped ripe plum tomatoes (about pounds) or a combination of fresh and canned plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 small sweet onion, cut into lengthwise slivers (about ½ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons diced sundried tomato
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt
  • ½ pound penne or other short tubular pasta
  • 2 cups sliced ( inch) cauliflower florets, about ½ medium head
  • Wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, at room temperature (see Note)


    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    2. Combine the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 2 tablespoons of the basil, the onion, sundried tomato, and garlic in a large bowl and stir to blend. Set aside.
    3. Add salt to the boiling water. Stir in the pasta and cook 8 minutes, or until just slightly underdone. Stir in the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and the pasta is al dente, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Drain.
    4. Add the penne and cauliflower to the tomato mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the remaining olive oil and basil. Transfer the mixture to 4 warm bowls. With a vegetable peeler, shave curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over each serving. Pass a pepper mill at the table.