This vegan cauliflower pasta with fried breadcrumbs features classic Italian flavors like white wine, capers, and lemon. Light and satisfying, packed with flavor, ready in just 35 minutes.
Making a rich and satisfying dairy-free pasta is a challenge for any plant-based cook. And if you take tomatoes out of the equation, that’s doubly true. But if you’ve been reading TNB long enough, you know I love a good cooking conundrum, which is why I’m so proud to present you this easy vegan cauliflower pasta. It’s light, packed with flavor, and so texturally satisfying. Let’s dive in!
What’s In This Vegan Cauliflower Pasta
Bits of sautéed cauliflower mingling with chewy orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta 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.
Oven Not Required
Many cauliflower pasta recipes call for roasting cauliflower in the oven. My easy sautéing technique, on the other hand, achieves similar results without having to preheat the oven and dirty a roasting pan.
Ingredient Notes + Substitutions
- Pasta: As much as I recommend seeking out orecchiette, any short pasta will work – gemelli, bowties, shells, etc.
- Cauliflower: Be sure to cut it into small bits so it’s similar in size to the pasta.
- White Wine: Wine adds a distinctive ferment-y funk to this vegan 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. (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!
- Capers: These tiny berries add salt and brininess. If you’re a caper-hater, sub with finely chopped green olives.
- Lemon: This recipe calls for zest and juice.
- Parsley: Adds so much freshness – don’t skip it! You can sub it with basil, though.
Vegan 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 it a little). 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), add the pasta to 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.
More vegan weeknight dinners…
- Massaman Vegetable Curry
- Larb-Inspired Lettuce Cups
- Tofu Sheet Pan Dinner
- Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Stew)
Let me know if you make this pasta! 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.
- 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*
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Boil water. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Start cooking cauliflower. Place the cauliflower in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons water and cook for a few minutes, until the water has evaporated. Then add a tablespoon of oil and cook until the cauliflower is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
- Add 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon each chili flakes and salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook for 30 seconds. Then add 1/3 cup wine and simmer for about a minute. Turn the heat off.
- Toast breadcrumbs. 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.
- Boil pasta. 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.
- While the pasta boils, prep the remaining ingredients and make sure they’re ready to go.
- Finish pasta. Immediately transfer the hot pasta to the skillet over high heat. Add the reserved pasta water, 2 tablespoons each nutritional yeast, parsley, and capers, 1 tablespoon oil, zest of 1/2 lemon plus 1 tablespoon juice, and a few grinds of 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 if needed.
- If you’re a caper-hater, use chopped green olives instead.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 370
- Fat: 12.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 52.4 g
- Fiber: 4.7 g
- Protein: 9.8 g
Keywords: cauliflower, pasta, lemon, vegan, breadcrumbs