The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

I set out to the grocery store after work yesterday with the intention of making Smitten Kitchen’s Leek Fritters with Lemon and Garlic for dinner.

However, no leeks in the produce department! (Or bananas and milk, for that matter.) I did have a backup plan: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.


And what a great backup plan it was! This dish was on my plate in about 20 minutes from start to finish. I made a few small amendments like adding an additional clove of garlic (Seriously, one clove of garlic in a recipe? Pfft!) and white balsamic vinegar in place of sherry vinegar.

I misread and did not add the olive oil into the pesto at the suggested time, but no harm done. If anything, adding it into the blender made for a creamier mix. To serve, I sprinkled on some (i.e. lots) cheese, parsley and Sriracha salt.


…I had two bowls for dinner.

Recipe Rating: 5 knives out of 5.

Bon appétit!

p.s. This recipe makes a lot! Have seconds, give a container to your coworker or freeze some for lunch later in the week.


Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

  • Kosher salt
  • 6 to 8 ounces dried linguine or fine (thinner) linguine
  • 1 small (13-ounce) head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almonds (may substitute pine nuts)
  • 2 or 3 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1-ounce chunk pecorino Romano cheese (may substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • About 8 flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or more to taste

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

Prepare pesto – Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and repeat with the second batch adding it to the same bowl when you are finished. If your cauliflower looks like the perfect texture but one large chunk insists upon escaping the steel blade’s grasp, pick it out and pulse it separately.

Pulse the garlic, chilli flakes, almonds, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and parsley in a food processor until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower, add the olive oil, the smaller amount of vinegar, and add a few pinches of salt and stir until combined. (If you do this step in the food processor it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.) Taste and adjust seasoning as needed – either adding more salt, pepper or remainder of vinegar. I start with about 1/2 teaspoon salt but often go up to nearly a full teaspoon.

Assemble dish – Once water is boiling, add the linguine and cook until it is al dente (cooked but with a tiny bite left)/ Reserve about 250ml of the cooking water, then drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed. If the pesto still feels too thick, loosen it with the remaining reserved cooking water. Divide among bowls and pass with additional Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (Knopf, Oct. 30, 2012).


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