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Surprise Yourself With Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno is an Italian dish brimming with flavor.

Often when people think of cauliflower the word boring also leaps to mind.  Not here!  This is not the flavorless mushy stuff that a lot of people think of when they visualize this cruciferous vegetable.

You can even just saute the cauliflower, season it as shown below and serve it as a great side dish.  Or you can do the full recipe with the rigatoni, bake it and have yourself a delicious and inexpensive meal.

And in case you are wondering (like I was), “al Forno” means “baked in the oven”.  You have probably heard the phrase before because baking in the oven is a common way of preparing Italian dishes.

Give yourself a pleasant surprise and try this yummy, filling and inexpensive dish.

Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

Time          1 hour

Yield          4 to 6 servings


  • 1 pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape
  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, plus a few sage leaves left whole
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated Fontina or Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces finely grated Romano cheese or other hard Pecorino
  • ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish



  1. Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.
  3. Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.
  4. Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni and Fontina and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with Romano cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)
  5. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.


Original Source

Source Image:  Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times