Cauliflower, Lemon and Chilli Pasta

“Why have I never put cauliflower in any pasta dishes before? It’s not like it doesn’t make sense to put cauliflower cheese with pasta!” exclaims chef Gizzi Erskine.

“The first time I saw anyone do it in a way that piqued my interest, was when cookery writer Rosie Birkett made this lovely roasted cauliflower pasta with preserved lemons. I have messed around with a few different recipes, but there’s something in the way the salty, sour and bitter lemons react with the cauliflower and acidulated, silky cheese sauce that gives it the adult flare that makes it so special, so well done Rosie for making this a thing! I roast cauliflower leaves for this dish – they are so sweet and delicious and have a satisfying texture.”

Serves: 4


  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets, and the inner leaves
  • 100ml olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for roasting the cauliflower
  • 40g rye bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
  • 250g ditali pasta, macaroni, mezzi rigatoni or orecchiette
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 dried chilli, crushed
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 200g sour cream
  • 80g Parmesan, grated
  • large handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 preserved lemons, pips removed and skin thinly sliced
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven as hot as it can go (about 260ºC / 240ºC fan/gas mark 10).

2. Spread the cauliflower florets and leaves on a baking tray and drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a teaspoon of salt, mix with your hands so that all the cauliflower is evenly coated in the oil and place in the roasting-hot oven for 15 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned, even slightly charred.

3. Once the cauliflower is in the oven, heat half the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for about four minutes until crisp and golden, then transfer to kitchen paper to drain off excess oil and keep them crispy. Set aside.

4. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of well-salted boiling water for a couple of minutes less than the time stated on the packet (you will finish cooking it with the sauce).

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan with the garlic and chilli and cook gently for five minutes, until softened. Set aside.

6. Drain the pasta, reserving 100ml of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pan.

7. Whisk the egg yolks, cream and Parmesan together in a bowl. Place the pasta pan back over medium heat and stir in the egg mixture, followed by the garlic and chilli oil, parsley, preserved lemon, lemon zest and a generous pinch of black pepper. Mix well over the heat for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, check for seasoning and stir through the roasted cauliflower. Serve immediately, with the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top and, if you’re like me, an extra grating of Parmesan.

Restore: A Modern Guide To Sustainable Eating by Gizzi Erskine, photography by Issy Croker, is published by HQ.

– With PA

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