I can’t give up pasta. I’ve tried. I’ve failed.
Or butter. Also tried and failed.
Or cheese. That’s a big fat failure too.
I think I have to accept the fact that I’m just not going to be back down to my wedding weight before our big trip. Sigh. That’s what I get for eating everything in sight the day after the wedding up until about three months ago. Binge eating chicken fingers, cheeseburgers and McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches does not result in a svelte figure — although wouldn’t it be nice if it did??.
Even though I’m ok with not getting back down to my wedding weight, I’d still like to look somewhat decent in a bikini, or as my friend Mandi (who we are going with) so poignantly said, “I’d like to at least have AN ab.” Ha!
Because giving up butter, cheese and pasta is not an option for me, the only solution is to find creative ways to include those vices into my diet without feeling guilty about it.
Enter whole-wheat pasta.
While I do thoroughly enjoy my homemade white flour fettuccine, ravioli and pappardelle, I also have a major infatuation with whole-wheat pasta. I love the toothsome texture and nutty, hearty flavor that whole-wheat pastas offer – plus I don’t feel completely weighed down after eating like I do with traditional pasta. In fact, in some instances I actually prefer whole-wheat pasta – spaghetti and meatballs being one of them.
Of course there’s no alternative to butter, but I’ve found that if you alter it, i.e. brown the butter, you don’t have to use as much to inject tons of flavor into dishes.
Pairing brown butter with equally nutty whole-wheat noodles here was a no-brainer – a match made in nutty heaven if you will. And actually come to think about it, this whole dish is focused on the “nutty” factor.
We have nutty cauliflower that’s roasted under the broiler until slightly charred.
We have pine nuts and garlic that are both toasted in the brown butter.
We have parmesan cheese
And of course we have the aforementioned whole-wheat spaghetti and browned butter.
This is the perfect weeknight dish that comes together in under 30 minutes – which is always a winner in my book. While the pasta is cooking, the cauliflower is roasting – both are finished in approximately the same amount of time. Once the pasta is aldente, I save about a cup of the starchy cooking liquid and drain the pasta. The butter is browned in the same pan, and the garlic and pine nuts are thrown it for a quick toast. The cauliflower and pasta are thrown back into the pan along with a big handful of grated parmesan cheese, and enough cooking liquid to create a velvety sauce.
I wasn’t even prepared for how much I loved this — everything about it — it’s light, yet hearty and full of flavor, and a heckuva lot healthier than my go-to creamy pasta — what’s not to love?
- 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
- 1 medium head cauliflower cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes + more to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1//2 cup pine nuts
- Turn the oven to broil.
- Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Roast until slightly charred, about 15 minutes.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until just under aldente. Reserve 1 cup of starchy water. Drain and set aside.
- In the same pot you cooked the pasta in, melt the butter over a medium-high heat. Cook until butter begins to brown, swirling pan as it browns. Once the butter becomes a chestnut brown and smells nutty, turn the heat off and throw in garlic and pine nuts, cook until toasted, about 1 minute. Be sure to not burn. Immediately toss in spaghetti.
- Turn the heat back on low. Add in parmesan cheese and toss. Add in cauliflower. Add enough starchy liquid to form a sauce. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.