Pasta is king at Sara Jenkins's new Manhattan restaurant, Porsena. There, the chef dishes up bowl after bowl of classic Italian pastas, from a minimalist pasta al pomodoro to maccheroncini served with a meaty ragù. Given Jenkins's reputation as a pork-obsessed chef, you'd expect the meatier offerings to be Porsena's main attraction, but her vegetable-forward entrees are equally noteworthy. Take this lush penne pasta: Jenkins partners caramelized cauliflower with briny black olives and capers to create a dish that's quick enough to make on a weeknight, yet is still capable of captivating a crowd.
Pennette with Roasted Cauliflower, Capers and Olives
Recipe adapted from Sara Jenkins, Porsena, NYC
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 medium heads cauliflower, cored and trimmed into florets (about 7 cups)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound pennette or penne pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ cup pitted mild black olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
1 medium dried mild chile, seeded and thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup bread crumbs, toasted
1 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the cauliflower to the prepared baking sheet and roast, stirring twice, until crisp-tender and golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.
3. When the cauliflower is nearly done roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.
4. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, warm the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil with the butter over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the olives, capers and chile and cook, stirring, until just warm, about 1 minute. Add the anchovies and continue cooking, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve, about 2 minutes. Gently stir in the cauliflower and remove the saucepan from the heat.
5. Drain the pasta and toss immediately with the cauliflower mixture. Add the bread crumbs, cheese and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.