I’ve always loved stories about unsung heroes. They aren’t quite underdogs, scraping and struggling until they win the game or depose an unjust monarch; instead, they’re usually the best friend or the sibling who never quite got the glory. That’s right—I’ve resorted to loosely quoting a Beaches song to arrive at my point; however, don’t let that dissuade you from my argument, or rather lack of one, since now all I can think about is cry-laughing through Beaches and maybe taking a dance break during the trippy yet oddly accurate song about industry. Whatever will become of me, am I right?
But back to my point—the character who almost never gets a thanks or a blank check or a hug has always been my favorite. Yes, you Joan Cusack. Yes, you, the humble breadcrumb.
The breadcrumb is a workhorse, the backbone holding together many a ground meat that needs to get in formation (actual redacted lyric from a Beyoncé song). And now, for the first time in history (read: this weblog), the breadcrumb is the hero. Without it, this pasta would lack the fascinating and flavorful textural component that only the breadcrumb possesses. This pasta is a weeknight smash, especially for the sheer lack of time it takes to make; and, if you have even a semi-well stocked kitchen, you probably won’t need to hit the grocery for ingredients other than sausage and cauliflower. Well, and maybe anchovies. OK, so maybe you do need to hit the store, but it won’t cost much and the trip will be the most time-consuming part of the process.
Once you’ve accumulated all the ingredients, it’s honestly as hard as roasting some cauliflower while sautéing the rest of your ingredients. And the end result is so delicious, you’re sure to work it into your weeknight staples right between Taco Tuesday and Borscht Thursday. There are many versions of breadcrumb pasta, including the one I originally fell in love with that incorporates raisins. But after careful consideration and heavy tinkering, I think this version will be the wind beneath your wings or at the very least the reason you’ll have to brush your teeth twice before kissing your partner.
Get it. Cuz your breath will be stinky.
- 1 head cauliflower, sliced into florets
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to toss with cauliflower
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- ½ pound Italian sausage, crumbled
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 4 anchovy filets, chopped
- 2 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice cauliflower into florets, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Sprinkle with salt + pepper and roast until browned, approximately 20 minutes. Set aside.
- In a large + deep cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, crumble your sausage and cook until browned. Remove sausage and set aside.
- Add pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook to al dente. Drain hot pasta (reserving some starchy pasta water).
- Add ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil to the skillet with sausage fat. Once hot, add anchovies and garlic, and sauté until garlic is browned and anchovies are almost dissolved.
- Add red pepper flakes and breadcrumbs, and sauté until breadcrumbs are browned, approximately 8-10 minutes.
- Add capers, olives, and the lemon zest.
- Add drained hot pasta to oil + breadcrumb mixture. Toss over medium heat until the pasta is coated. If additional moisture is needed, add some starchy pasta water, one tablespoon at a time. Add salt + pepper, to taste.
- Once pasta is fully mixed, pour into a large serving dish, top with roasted cauliflower florets, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.