It’s been a while since I made a pasta dinner. When I’m pressed for time I tend to default to grains and legumes, soups and stews, dinner salads and tacos. Pasta doesn’t cross my mind, in spite of the fact that it’s quick cooking and easy to make. This year, I’m on a mission to make it more often and more creatively (marinara is my default–hardly inspiring), especially since Steven is a huge pasta lover. This spicy roasted cauliflower lemon pasta is a delicious place to start.
Today’s recipe was created with the help of a new (to me) type of cooking oil: algae oil from Thrive. Algae has been getting quite a bit of attention lately as a source of sustainable nutrition, but every time I’ve read about it, I’ve wondered what culinary forms it would take. Thrive oil starts with harvesting of algae, which is then fermented in tanks and pressed to release the oil. The company’s missionis to a sustainable source of oil–one that can be produced more plentifully with fewer acres of land and minimal carbon and water footprints.
Algae oil also has the distinction of being incredibly low in saturated fat (about 75% less than olive oil, which is already pretty low) and high in the monounsaturated fats that are associated with cardiovascular health, high HDL (or “good” cholesterol) and low LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and steady blood sugar and insulin levels. Dr. Dean Ornish, who has studied plant-based diet and its potential to help reverse heart disease, is on Thrive’s nutrition advisory board.
One final, distinctive feature of Thrive oil is that it’s stable at very high temperatures–up to 485F–which means that it’s great for high temperature roasting (and perfect for the spicy roasted cauliflower in this dish).
Back to the food! This pasta capitalizes on the wonderful, crisp texture of oven roasted cauliflower, savory-sweet notes from the red onions that roast with it, and lots of brightness and acid from lemon juice and zest. Garlic gets sautéed at the very end and stirred in with everything, making the pasta super flavorful in spite of its simplicity.
I think that the citrus, along with the heat from the red pepper flakes, make it a perfect pasta dish for cold weather, and I look forward to trying it with different shapes. (Spaghetti works perfectly, but penne and orecchiette would be great, too.)
I wasn’t sure how Steven would feel about the pasta, as it was a new recipe for both of us. He loved it, so much that we dove into the dish for lunch after I took photos, rather than waiting to eat it for dinner! That’s a strong endorsement from us both. Here’s the recipe.
- 1 medium sized head cauliflower (about 1½ pounds), thick stem removed and cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons neutral tasting cooking oil, divided (I used Thrive algae oil, but olive oil or grapeseed oil will work well, too)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Coarse salt
- Crushed red pepper
- 10 ounces dry pasta (regular, whole wheat, or a gluten free pasta are all fine–I use Tinkyada brown rice pasta)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
- Hempesan, for topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the cauliflower, red onion, and paprika in one tablespoon of the oil. Transfer the vegetables to two parchment or foil-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt and crushed red pepper (less generously with the pepper, if you’re sensitive to heat). Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and crispy on the edges, stirring once halfway through.
- While the vegetables roast, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, stirring frequently, until the pasta is done. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking water.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over low heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until it’s fragrant but not burning. When the garlic is ready, add the pasta, the lemon juice and zest, the parsley, and the roasted vegetables. Stir everything together, then add extra salt and an extra dash of crushed pepper to taste. Serve right away.
Thrive oil works well in this recipe because its flavor is so neutral (not exactly what you’d expect from anything that’s algae-derived!). All of the other flavors–garlic, lemon, red onion, spicy red pepper flakes–are given a chance to shine through, and they shine very brightly. Perhaps the only downside of Thrive is that it doesn’t have the fruity flavor of olive oil or the nuttiness of a nut oil, so it’s not the best choice for, say, dipping bread. But for any high temperature cooking for which you want a neutral flavor and low saturated fat content, it’s a perfect choice.
Hope you’ll give this wonderful pasta dish a try. And it’s worth saying that a good sprinkle of my hempesan will make a great addition to the spicy roasted cauliflower pasta, along with any other salads or grains you have on the menu for your week.
Curious about trying Thrive oil for yourself? You’re in luck. Thrive is offering to share a bottle of their oil with a Full Helping reader (US only). If you’re interested, enter below to win. I’d love to hear about what sort of tasty vegan recipes you’d use the oil in!