This lemony cauliflower pasta with fried breadcrumbs features white wine, capers, and nutritional yeast. Light and satisfying, packed with flavor, takes just 35 minutes. (This article has been updated from its original 2018 version.)
Making a satisfying, rich-tasting cheeseless pasta is a challenge for any plant-based cook. And if you take tomatoes out of the question, that’s doubly true. But if you’ve been reading me long enough, you know I love a good vegan cooking conundrum, which is why I’m so proud to present to you this cauliflower pasta recipe.
Bits of sautéed cauliflower mingling with chewy orecchiette and capers in a funky white wine sauce with garlic, chili flakes, and lemon. Nutritional yeast adds a “cheesy” flavor and parsley lends freshness. But the true star of the show? Crunchy, deeply-toasted panko breadcrumbs. If you’ve never had this pairing before, it may seem nuts to garnish something starchy with something starchy. But trust me – this is a real power move! The contrast of soft pasta with crunchy panko is to-die-for.
Cauliflower Pasta Step-by-Step
Saute the Cauliflower: Start by chopping the cauliflower into small bits. Put it in a skillet with a splash of water and cook just until the water evaporates (this softens the cauli a little and eliminates the need to boil it first). Then add oil and saute until golden. Next, stir in fresh garlic and chili flakes (I add these at the end to avoid burning them). Lastly, add the wine and simmer until it’s reduced, about 1 more minute.
Toast the Breadcrumbs: Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, combine olive oil, panko breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and a pinch of salt. Toast, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the Panko is deeply golden, about 3 minutes.
Boil the Pasta: Boil the pasta in generously salted water until just shy of al dente (it will finish cooking in the skillet). Before draining, scoop out some of the starchy cooking water.
Finish the Pasta: Immediately after draining (the pasta should be hot in order to absorb all the flavors), combine the pasta with cauliflower in the skillet, along with nutritional yeast, capers, lemon zest and juice, parsley, lots of pepper, and the reserved pasta water. Continue cooking over high heat while continually stirring for about a minute. Serve immediately, topped with the breadcrumbs.
Ingredient Notes + Substitutions
- White Wine: Wine adds a distinctive ferment-y funk to this cauliflower pasta. Use something like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or chardonnay. If you don’t drink alcohol and won’t have use for the rest of the bottle, skip this step and compensate with an extra squeeze of lemon juice if needed. (A teaspoon of Yondu would also do the trick!)
- Panko Breadcrumbs: These Japanese breadcrumbs are fluffier and crunchier than American-style – although either type can be used here. Panko is available in most supermarkets in the breadcrumb aisle.
- Nutritional Yeast: A “cheesy”-tasting vegan seasoning sold in most supermarkets. Look for Bragg or Bob’s Red Mill brands. It lasts forever in the pantry so don’t hesitate to buy it if it’s your first time!
- Pasta: As much as I recommend seeking out orecchiette (“little ears”) for this dish, any short pasta will work – gemelli, farfalle, shells, etc.
- Capers: These tiny berries add salt and brininess. If you’re a caper-hater, sub with finely chopped olives.
More vegan dinners this way…
- Soy-Glazed Crumbled Tempeh
- Massaman-ish Vegetable Curry
- Vegan Sushi Bowls with Quick-Pickled Onions
- Spinach Pesto Pasta
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
This lemony cauliflower pasta with fried breadcrumbs features white wine, capers, and nutritional yeast. Light and satisfying, packed with flavor, takes just 35 minutes.
- ½ large head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces (about 4 cups)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio* (see note below)
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided
- 8 ounces (half a box) short-cut pasta like orecchiette or shells
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons drained capers (about half a standard jar)*
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Place the cauliflower in a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons water and cook for a few minutes, until the water has evaporated. Then add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook until the cauliflower is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and cook for 30 seconds. Then add 1/3 cup wine and simmer for about a minute. Turn the heat off.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Add 1/3 cup Panko, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, and a pinch of salt. Cook until deeply golden, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.
- Cook the pasta in generously salted water according to package directions until just shy of al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain.
- Immediately transfer the hot pasta to the skillet with the cauliflower over high heat. Add the reserved pasta water, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon oil, about 2 tablespoons each capers and minced parsley, zest of 1/2 lemon plus 1 tablespoon juice, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine and allow to heat through for about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Divide among plates and top with the toasted Panko. Serve immediately.
- Use a good-quality dry white wine that you’d enjoy drinking – never use “cooking wine.” Wine adds a distinctive, fermented-tasting funk to this pasta. If you don’t drink alcohol, skip this step and compensate with an extra squeeze of lemon juice if needed. (A teaspoon of Yondu would also do the trick!)
- If you’re a caper-hater, use chopped olives instead.
- Serving Size: 1/5 of the recipe
- Calories: 380
- Fat: 13.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 56.7 g
- Fiber: 5.7 g
- Protein: 7.1 g
Keywords: cauliflower, pasta, lemon, vegan, breadcrumbs