Of all the many, many pasta dishes on this site, this recipe for browned butter spaghetti with roasted cauliflower might be one of my favorite. I mean, there is browned butter involved, so I guess it was never a very fair competition.
The sauce in this recipe is made with a special ingredient that you’re gonna have to trust me on - anchovies. I know, I know. But when the anchovies are sautéed in olive oil, it loses it’s fishy flavor and instead tastes delicious and nutty and umami. I promise, even if you don’t think you like anchovies, you will love it in this dish.
The browned butter is the other special ingredient. Have you ever tried browned butter before? I first discovered it making my all time favorite cake recipe - bittersweet chocolate and pear cake from Smitten Kitchen. I had only used it in dessert recipes until I made this browned butter spaghetti a few years ago, and now I love to use it in pasta dishes, drizzle it over roasted vegetables or mash it into creamy potatoes. If it’s new to you, browned butter is simply regular butter that’s been cooked over medium heat until the milk solids caramelize and brown, giving it a rich, toasty flavor. I swear, it’s better than any scented candle you’ll ever purchase.
I love the combinations of flavors in this dish - sweet and caramelized roasted cauliflower, nutty browned butter, briny capers, tart juicy tomatoes, zesty lemon juice and herbaceous parsley. I know those adjectives may seem a bit superfluous , but I promise once you take a bite of this pasta you’ll understand.
If you’d like to add more protein to this dish, try it with lentil spaghetti, or toss in chickpeas or grilled chicken.
This post was originally published December 2013. Recipe, images and text have been updated to give you the best possible content.
Browned Butter Spaghetti with Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6-8 cups)
Extra-virgin olive oil for roasting cauliflower, plus 1 tablespoon for sauce
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
6 anchovy fillets
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese, for serving
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread cauliflower florets evenly across a large baking sheet. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Place in the oven and roast until tender and golden, tossing halfway, for a total of about 30 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup starchy pasta water.
Heat butter in a small/medium skillet on medium heat (it’s best to use a light colored skillet if you have one). Once melted, start whisking. The butter will start to bubble and foam and in about 2 minutes, then you will start to see browned bits on the bottom. Continue cooking about 30 more seconds while whisking, until butter is golden and browned, but not blackened. If you see any bits start to blacken, remove from heat immediately - if it goes too long it will taste burnt. Scape butter into a small bowl to stop the cooking and set aside until ready to use.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and anchovy to the skillet, and break apart the anchovy with the spatula so it melts into the sauteed vegetables. Cook a minute or two, stir in capers, golden raisins, spaghetti and enough starchy pasta liquid to make a sauce. Toss in brown butter, lemon zest and juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and serve with parmesan cheese.
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