Simple & Spicy Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

simple and spicy cauliflower pasta

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I actually kind of debated posting this roasted cauliflower pasta recipe. NOT because it’s so-so. Because it’s so simple. It’s basically a dressed up buttered noodles. But who doesn’t like buttered noodles? Even though it’s simple, it’s a surprisingly delicious recipe. Roasted cauliflower + serrano peppers compliment each other perfectly—earthy and spicy. Then we have fancy pine nuts, Castelvetrano olives, parmesan, and garlic butter. See? I told you it was simple!

Another reason that I love this recipe is because it’s a great way to hit the pasta spot AND sneak in veggies. It’s also not drenched in a heavy sauce, so I feel like it’s a pretty light pasta dish. Plus, anything with Castelvetrano olives in it is extra delicious. This dish was the first time I’ve ever used these cute spaghetti-o-lookin noodles. I really loved their texture and shape for this recipe! You could easily use any kind of noodle, but it was fun to try these.

cauliflower and serranos about to be roasted for simple and spicy pasta with roasted cauliflower


  • Cauliflower: Maybe you think of cauliflower as the hard crunchy florets you see on veggie trays. Roasted cauliflower is NOT that! When you roast it, it gets soft, buttery, mild, and very tasty. It’s the perfect way to sneak veggies into this pasta, because the flavor just melds right in.
  • Serrano peppers: I thought I was too much of a wuss for serrano peppers, but this recipe has the perfect amount of spice for me. The ribs and seeds are where most of the spice lives, so if you remove those (which I did), it will be far less spicy but you will still get the serrano flavor. Also, since we roast the peppers, the spice gets mellowed a bit. If you’re really worried about spice, you could use jalapeños because they are less spicy. Or, eliminate peppers altogether and add just a pinch of cayenne or a dash of red pepper flakes for an eensy weensy kick. Adding just a touch of spice elevates this pasta from a mild and buttery dish to something a bit more complex.
  • Olive oil/cooking spray, salt, & pepper: I use a light misting of high-quality avocado oil spray to prep the cauliflower and serranos for roasting (but you can also toss them with a glug or two of olive oil), and plenty of salt and pepper to season.
  • Pasta: Well of course we need pasta for our pasta dish! You can use whatever kind you have on hand here. Gluten-free pasta will substitute in perfectly as well. I liked these cute little O noodles, and if I had to make a recommendation, I’d say to use shorter pasta. But long pasta like spaghetti will be just fine if that’s what you like!
  • Pine nuts: Yummm, I love pine nuts. These tiny, buttery nuts go so well with parmesan and roasted cauliflower. But, they are expensive. Walnuts would be a great substitute. We toast our nuts on the stovetop to bring out their best toasty flavor. You can eliminate nuts completely if you want to.
  • Butter & garlic: I told you this was like fancy buttered noodles! Butter + garlic make up the sauce, along with a good splash of pasta water. Is there anything tastier than garlic butter??
  • Castelvetrano olives: These guys are becoming more popular, yay! I used to only be able to find them at the fancy olive bar but now they are in the olive aisle with all the others. If you can’t find them at your own local grocery store, you can buy them on Amazon! When I had these Italian olives for the first time, they instantly became my favorite. Mild, meaty, and lightly salted, they are such a great flavor addition to this recipe. They aren’t super briny like Kalamata olives—their flavor is probably closer to black olives. People say that whole olives (with pits) taste better, but I’m lazy so I buy the pitted kind and they are still great. You can omit the olives if you’re an olive-hater, or substitute with regular green olives, though those are a bit saltier.
  • Parmesan: Can’t have buttered noodles without some delicious cheese! When we add in the parmesan with the garlic butter and some pasta water, it melds into a glossy, flavorful sauce. You could use other cheeses here if you wanted though. A nice white aged cheddar would probably be absolutely delicious. This pasta can be as cheesy as you want it to be!
simple & spicy pasta with roasted cauliflower

How to make Simple & Spicy Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

First, we start by roasting our cauliflower and serranos because that will take the longest time. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and chop cauliflower into bite-size florets, removing leaves. Slice serranos and remove ribs and seeds if you prefer less spice. Spread cauliflower and serranos on a baking sheet and toss with a few glugs of olive oil or a misting of high-quality cooking spray, plus lots of salt and pepper. The high heat of the oven will turn our crunchy cauliflower into tender, buttery caramelized florets, and it also mellows out the spice of the serrano.

While our veggies are roasting, we get the pasta started. Boil heavily salted water—when I say “heavily salted” I mean as salty as the OCEAN! Like, a 3-count pour of salt. It may seem like a lot but it won’t be too salty in the end. Cook pasta to al dente according to box instructions, and make sure to save at least a cup of pasta water before draining! The reason we save the pasta water is because it’s filled with the pasta’s starches, plus all that salt. The starch will thicken the garlic butter + parmesan that we add at the end and create a luscious, glossy sauce that is already perfectly seasoned.

So! We have our veggies roasting, our pasta boiling. Just a few more steps. We toast our pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat to elevate their nutty flavor. Keep watch because nuts burn fast! As soon as the majority of them are beginning to look toasty, remove from heat and transfer to another bowl. In that same pan, we’ll make our garlic butter. Melt the butter in the pan and toss in 3 cloves of minced or grated garlic, stirring for just a minute or so until garlic is fragrant. Garlic burns quickly so be sure to take it off the heat once you feel it’s done—if pasta isn’t anywhere near ready, you might want to turn off the heat as soon as you add the garlic to the butter and let the residual heat sauté it so that it doesn’t burn, then you can just leave it in the pan as you wait for the pasta to be done.

Once pasta is ready, drain, reserving some pasta water like we talked about earlier, and return it to the pot. Now it all comes together. Add the garlic butter and parmesan, mix until coated, then add in a good splash of pasta water. Continue adding pasta water until pasta is looking glossy. The pasta will soak up more water as time goes on so be generous here. Mix in the pine nuts, Castelvetrano olives, roasted cauliflower, and serranos. That’s it! Serve it up with extra parmesan, because more cheese is the best kind of cheese.

Best of all, this Simple & Spicy Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower recipe comes together in under an hour. Let me know what you think if you make it!

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simple and spicy cauliflower pasta

Simple & Spicy Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

  • Author: Megan B-L
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta


This recipe is like a dressed up buttered noodles with added veggies! Pasta is tossed in luscious garlic butter & parmesan, then mixed with tender roasted cauliflower, serrano peppers for a hint of spice, pine nuts for crunch, and salty bursts of Castelvetrano olives. Easy, light, and tasty!


Units Scale
  • 1 small/medium head cauliflower
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • 12 tablespoons olive oil (or high-quality cooking spray)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz box of pasta, your choice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup Castelvetrano olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Chop a head of cauliflower into bite-size florets and thinly slice 2 serrano peppers, removing seeds & ribs if you want less spice. Toss cauliflower and serrano peppers with a few tablespoons of olive oil or a misting of high-quality cooking spray, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until cauliflower is fork-tender and looking toasted on the edges. 
  2. Meanwhile, get heavily salted pasta water boiling and cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. (Save at least 1 cup of pasta water!)
  3. Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a small pan on medium heat with no oil, tossing frequently for several minutes until nuts are looking and smelling toasty. Nuts burn fast so keep your eyes on them! Remove nuts from pan and set aside.
  4. Using the same pan on medium heat, melt 3 tbsp butter, then add 3 cloves minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute and a half. Remove from heat. 
  5. When pasta is finished, drain and return it to the pot. Add garlic butter and parmesan, stir to combine, then add in generous splashes of reserved pasta water, stirring until pasta is looking glossy and coated in sauce. The noodles will keep soaking up moisture as time goes on so err on the side of more liquid. 
  6. Mix in roasted cauliflower & serrano peppers, pine nuts and Castelvetrano olives.
  7. Dish it up, top with more parm, and enjoy!  

Keywords: cauliflower, pasta, spicy, peppers, garlic, butter, pine nuts, serrano

lemony broccoli carbonara

Mmmm, pasta. Another simple pasta recipe (with added veggies!) is my Lemony Broccoli Carbonara. It takes less than 30 minutes to make!

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