I often have a running internal monologue. Actually, it sounds more like I’m writing blog posts in my head. As I was making this delicious, deceptively healthy spaghetti with roasted red pepper and cauliflower sauce, it occurred to me that I’m a bowl kinda gal and then I proceeded to write a mental blog post about bowls and why I love them. As in, I prefer to eat out of a bowl. Almost anything out of a bowl tastes extra delicious to me. And a nice, big bowl of piping, hot spaghetti fits the bill on a cold winter night like tonight, in Chicago.
There is just something comforting about sauce, and oodles of pasta, topped with shaved (or grated) cheese. It’s like getting a hug from your BFF (or your mother or both). I
want need pasta like this in my life. In fact, when I’m in a more indulgent sort of mood, I happily turn to my comfort macaroni and cheese. Though I wanted indulgence today, I also didn’t want to dive into a bowl of a calorie-rich meal. I needed something hearty, light, creamy, full of carby goodness but also a dish that wouldn’t break the calorie bank. And enter my deceptively healthy spaghetti with roasted red pepper and cauliflower sauce.
Let me tell you something. This sauce deserves to be eaten off the spoon as you’re making it; it’s that fantastic. I can think of ten thousand things to smother it with. Who can resist the smoky, charred roasted red peppers blended with tender cauliflower and parmesan cheese? Certainly not me. But to be clear, because I don’t want you coming back to yell at me when this sauce doesn’t taste like cream-based sauce. It’s incredibly flavorful but it’ll be a little vegetably. More specifically, it’ll taste, lightly, like cauliflower. Which is 100% alright with me given that cauliflower is one of favorite veggies of all time.
Before you let those doubts take the better part of your judgment, let me tell you a true story. I stuck the red peppers under the broiler and went about my business, while answering the five-year-old Diva’s 1,234,667 questions.
Diva: Hey what smells so good? And are you making cauliflower [pronounced cawl-eeeee-flawwww-wer]?
Me: I’m roasting some red peppers for dinner
Diva: I don’t like red peppers [or vegetables] or cauliflower
Me: I’m well aware but trust me, it’ll be fine
1/2 an hour later I put a spoonful of the red pepper and cauliflower sauce in her mouth, without giving her notice. And her eyes went wide. Like they became ten times their normal size. And then a smile appeared.
Diva: wow, this is so yummy!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this sauce is kid approved. All the kids licked their bowls clean at dinnertime! What’s not to love about long strands of perfectly cooked, al-dente spaghetti coated in smooth, velvety sauce? It’s got slurpability and lick–your-lips-bility, as you eat. I dare you not to lick your lips when you eat this.
Though I roasted my own peppers, you can make this prep a lot quicker by using jarred peppers and just roasting the cauliflower yourself. And this spaghetti is fully customizable. Want to add some mushrooms? Go ahead. Or in the mood for grilled chicken? Grill a couple of breasts, slice against the grain and top off your spaghetti. Want a different noodle? GO.RIGHT.AHEAD. My recipe is your source of culinary inspiration. Today, I was in a simple bowl of spaghetti kinda mood without anything else. Just some noodles and sauce.
Some helpful suggestions:
- I prefer a thicker sauce so I didn’t add as much broth to my sauce. If you like a thinner sauce, you can add broth, 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
- If you want a richer, more indulgent variation, try replacing the liquid with all reduced-fat milk or whole milk.
- This sauce freezes exceptionally well so go right ahead and make that extra batch to have on hand when you’re pressed for time. All you have to do is boil some pasta and mix with the sauce.
- pasta doesn’t really have much flavor by itself and will take on the flavor profile of whatever sauce you add it to. Simmer the sauce on low heat as you add the drained pasta and continue to simmer for a few minutes so the sauce and pasta have a chance to marry. The sauce will thicken up and the pasta will be happier for it.
- for a richer taste, drizzle some olive oil over the top right before serving, along with some shaved parmesan chards. As the hot pasta touches the cheese, the cheese forms this melty, gooey coating. mmmmm!
So what are you actually waiting for now? Go ahead and make this spaghetti. And don’t forget to tag us on instagram @mannaandspice!
- 12 oz whole spaghetti, cooked al-dente (you can use regular spaghetti if you want)
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 4 red peppers
- 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2–2 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups baby spinach, cooked until wilted
- ROAST THE PEPPERS: Turn oven on to full broiler and place cookie sheet with red peppers for 20 minutes, rotating peppers to char all sides evenly. Place in container with lid for 5-10 minutes, to allow the steam to loosen the skin on the peppers. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, remove stem and seeds.
- ROAST CAULIFLOWER: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower and garlic cloves with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender.
- MAKE THE SAUCE: In a blender or food processor place seeded roasted peppers, cauliflower, and garlic cloves with parmesan cheese, salt, 1 cup broth, and crushed red pepper. Puree for 1 minute and drizzle in remaining olive oil, and milk. Slowly drizzle in remaining broth, adding enough to get to desired consistency. Continue to puree for several minutes, until sauce is completely smooth.
- Toss sauce with cooked spaghetti on low heat, in a pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until sauce is heated. Top with wilted spinach and serve hot with with shaved/grated parmesan cheese.