This cozy bowl of Crispy Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Pesto Pasta is THE best any night of the week wintery pasta. Taking a classic pesto pasta recipe and updating it with a no cream, creamy pesto sauce, crispy cauliflower, and lemony arugula. Every twirl of pasta has delicious, comforting but fresh flavors that melt in your mouth. It’s the coziest, creamiest bowl of healthier pasta that’s fancy enough for the weekend, but easy enough to make any night of the week. And most importantly, it’s delicious!
We’ve made it to the first Thursday of the New Year, which means we’re almost one week into 2021. And while the world is still a little wonky (to put it nicely), it’s been a pretty great start to the new year. We’ve already cooked up a handful of delicious recipes, all made with a slightly healthier spin. And we’re closing out the savory recipes for the week with pasta, which is never a bad idea.
This isn’t just your average bowl of pesto pasta either, it’s extra special. How it came to be is a mash-up of ideas and plenty of thinking, writing, and reworking. And while it took me a minute to get everything just right, I couldn’t love the recipe more.
In fact, it might be one of my favorites from the week. Though I’ve loved every recipe this week, sooo, I will not choose a favorite. But just know this pasta is REALLY GOOD. And what’s even better? It’s very well balanced with plenty of vegetables and herbs. It’s also easily adaptable to make completely vegan too.
The details…all about that cauliflower
Start with the cauliflower. Which is actually the heart of this recipe, and where the idea for this pasta all started.
I wanted to make an extra crispy roasted cauliflower. It’s been a while since I’ve used cauliflower. So when looking back through older posts while gathering recipes for last week’s Favorite Healthy Recipes, I came across my cauliflower salad. Oh, how I love this salad. I remember that my family all loved it so much too.
It’s truly one of my best salads, and it’s the cauliflower that makes it. I took that cauliflower recipe, and used it within this pasta. It’s oven-roasted with lots of garlic and spices. By the time it comes out of the oven, it’s extra crispy with just the right amount of char and so much flavor. It is delicious! Especially atop a big bowl of creamy pesto pasta.
While the cauliflower roasts, make the pasta
For the pasta, I made a quick basil pesto, but with a few additions that make this even better. I added lemon for freshness, and jalapeño for an unexpected but delicious spicy kick. I know it sounds odd with all these Italian flavors, but if you love a Greek style goddess dressing, you’ll love this pesto. It’s very similar.
Once the pesto is made, boil up your favorite cut of pasta. I really like using a longer cut…fettuccini or bucatini are my usual go-to’s. Add the hot pasta right back to that pot you boiled it in, then add all the pesto and a splash of creamy coconut milk. The coconut milk helps to create a luscious sauce without adding in any cream. And I promise, you don’t taste even the slightest hint of coconut!
Immediately the heat from the pasta intensifies the smell of the basil…leaving you with nothing but excitement for dinner. And trust me, you should be excited. Every bowl of pasta is creamy, just oh so slightly spicy, with a subtle pesto touch. And the crispy cauliflower on top adds additional texture and flavor.
It’s is so very good. Roll your eyes back, go for that second bowl, and finish the pasta all in one sitting, GOOD. Dramatic, but true.
It’s different, but so, so good.
And again, the crispy cauliflower is a game-changer. The flavor is intense, but the texture and seasoning are spot on. It adds a saltiness that keeps everyone coming back for seconds.
The perfect winter pasta…just made with a few slightly healthier swaps!
Looking for other fresh takes on pasta? Here are my favorites:
Lastly, if you make this Crispy Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Pesto Pasta, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Crispy Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Pesto Pasta
Calories Per Serving: 560 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch kosher salt and black pepper
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 pound pasta, any variety
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
- 1 cups baby arugula, spinach, or a mix
- 1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired)
- 1/4 cup toasted nuts, such as: pine nuts, walnuts, or pistachios
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
- 1/4-1/3 cup canned full fat coconut milk (or cream/milk of choice)
- 1. Preheat oven to 425° F. On a baking sheet, combine the cauliflower, 1/4 cup olive oil, paprika, chili flakes, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Toss well to evenly coat. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until tender. Add the 2 cloves garlic and the lemon zest. Roast another 10 minutes, until charred. 3. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a blender or food processor, combine the basil, arugula/spinach, the jalapeño, 1-2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, nuts, parmesan, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt. Pulse until a sauce forms, adding 1-2 tablespoons water if needed to thin. 4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain and add the pasta right back into the hot pot. 5. To the pasta, add the pesto and coconut milk, tossing to combine. Thin the pasta, as desired, with the reserved pasta cooking water. 6. Divide the pasta among bowls, then serve each bowl with a side of cauliflower. Top with herbs and greens. Grab a fork and enjoy!