Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Spinach Pesto
on Dec 28, 2020, Updated Dec 27, 2023
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
With just 10 ingredients you can make this roasted cauliflower pasta with spinach pesto. It’s an easy vegetarian pasta recipe that has so much flavor. While the cauliflower is in the oven, you have plenty of time to puree the pesto which has pistachios and parmesan. The orecchiette pasta cooks in minutes, and then you stir it all together in a big bowl.
For another alternate pesto recipe, try this roasted broccoli pasta with fresh lemon.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This is a simple and filling vegetarian pasta recipe. Roasting cauliflower is the easiest and tastiest way you can cook it. You can quickly slice an entire head of cauliflower, break it into florets, toss it all with oil and seasonings on a baking pan and roast it. There is no complicated prep work.
Spinach pesto is a quick and easy sauce for pasta. Changing it up from the usual basil pesto, I use baby spinach and pistachios. This enhances the overall nuttiness of the pesto and the roasted cauliflower. You can make the pesto while the cauliflower is in the oven or even a couple days ahead of time.
You may only think of pesto for summer, but don’t limit yourself because it’s wonderful in this fall-winter pasta. It adds that special combination of garlicky, herby and fresh flavor that you can’t get with tomato sauce or a cream sauce. Include it to your pasta rotation for some variation.
This is what you need:
- Cauliflower: When you pick up a whole head of cauliflower, it should feel heavy for its size. Avoid ones that have any brown spots.
- Pasta: Orecchiette is my first choice because these ear-shaped noodles scoop up the pesto and chopped nuts. Short shapes work best. Other options include penne or fusilli.
- Spinach: I recommend using baby spinach because its tender leaves easily puree into pesto. You can substitute with arugula and make arugula pesto, which will have a more peppery kick to it than more mild spinach.
- Pistachios are easy to find shelled. I recommend using unsalted or lightly salted roasted nuts. You can substitute with chopped walnuts or almonds.
- Garlic: There are 2 cloves in the pesto. If prefer it less garlicky, then only use 1.
- Parmesan cheese is in the pesto grated. I also shave paper-thin pieces to sprinkle on the finished pasta.
- Chives are one of my favorite fresh herbs because they add delicate onion flavor. You can also use chopped parsley or a mix of both.
- Olive oil: Use high quality extra virgin olive oil for the best taste.
- Salt & pepper season the cauliflower for roasting and the pesto.
How To Make Roasted Cauliflower Pasta
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
1. Toss the cauliflower with oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Spread it across the pan in a single layer.
2. Roast the cauliflower until it is golden brown at the edges and tender. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to flip over the cauliflower florets halfway through roasting.
3. Chop the garlic, spinach, pistachios, parmesan, salt and pepper in a food processor.
4. Drizzle the olive oil in through the feeder tube with the motor running until the pesto is combined.
5. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Then drain in a colander.
6. Stir the pesto into the pasta in a large bowl. After that, fold in the roasted cauliflower and chives. Garnish with chopped pistachios and shaved Parmesan before serving.
You can serve this cauliflower pasta recipe with a simple arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette or an Italian chopped salad. For a vegetable side dish that you can cook on the stove to keep the oven free for roasting the cauliflower, try sautéed brussels sprouts or sautéed broccolini. You can also serve the pasta with a piece of bread with a nice crust that you can dip into the pesto.
Make-Ahead Tips, Leftovers & Storage
You can make the spinach pesto up to 2 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container. Let it sit out at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. This will give the oil a chance to turn to liquid again because it will harden in the cold temperature of the fridge.
You can keep leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Warm it in the microwave or with a splash of olive oil in a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Both the cauliflower and orecchiette will soften and lose some of their bite. Another option is to eat it cold as a pasta salad. Then stir in baby spinach for greens.
- Don’t buy cauliflower florets. It’s best to slice an entire head and then break it into pieces. That’s because they will have flat sides that make the most contact with the pan and brown better.
- You don’t need to line the baking sheet. Since you toss the cauliflower in oil, there’s no risk of it sticking. Again, that direct contact with the hot metal will help the cauliflower brown as it roasts.
- Short pasta shapes work best for this recipe. That’s because they are more similar in size to the roasted cauliflower unlike long strands of spaghetti or fettuccine.
- Don’t overlook the pasta. It should turn out al dente and have some bite.
- If you use unsalted roasted pistachios in the pesto, you may need to season the pasta more. All you have to do is taste the pasta once everything is stirred together to check to see if it needs more salt.
No. It’s best to roast fresh cauliflower. Frozen has a higher water content and will not brown as well when it roasts.
You can substitute sunflower seeds for the pistachios. Or leave out the nuts. That will reduce the amount of pesto you end up with, so the pasta will be less sauced.
Yes. The most important thing no matter the type of pasta is that you cook it, so it is al dente.
More Pasta Recipes
More Pesto Recipes
Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Spinach Pesto
- 1 head cauliflower, (about 2 pounds), leaves removed, bottom stem trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices and broken into florets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For spinach pesto
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup packed baby spinach
- 1/4 cup roasted pistachios (either unsalted or lightly salted)
- 1/2 ounce grated Parmesan (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 8 ounces orecchiette
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- Shaved Parmesan for serving
- Chopped pistachios for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- On a sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread into a single layer. Roast the cauliflower until it is browned at the edges and tender, flipping halfway through cooking, about 20-25 minutes.
- For the pesto, finely chop the garlic, spinach, pistachios, parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor or blender. With the motor running, drizzle 1/3 cup olive oil through the feeder tube. Continue mixing until the pesto is fully combined.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente following the recommended cook time on the package. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Stir the pesto into the pasta. Then fold in the roasted cauliflower and chives.
- Divide into bowls or serve on plates. Top with shaved Parmesan and chopped pistachios.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.