Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions

Giuseppe Fanelli

Tre Dici - NYC

Long, slow cooking of the onions and cauliflower in this pasta dish produces a deeply flavored, satisfying sauce from only a few ingredients.


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 large onions, about 2 pounds, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock, simmering
  • 1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs (unseasoned)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1⁄4 cup olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Toss to coat with the oil and seasonings and roast for about 40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and nicely browned.

Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cover the pan and cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Uncover, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Turn up the heat to medium and continue cooking an additional 20 minutes or so, until the onions turn a nice, even caramel brown. When the cauliflower has finished roasting and has cooled somewhat, chop it into small pieces, 1/2-inch or smaller. Add the cauliflower to the onions, remove from pan and reserve.

Cook the pasta. While it's cooking, heat the final 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan (you can use the same one you cooked the onions in). Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and onions along with a cup or so of the chicken broth. Cook, stirring, until the broth has evaporated. Add another cup or so of broth and continue cooking. Keep adding broth while the pasta cooks. When the pasta is done, drain it, do not rinse it, and add it to the onion and cauliflower mixture. Add some additional stock and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to finish the sauce. Toss, cooking until the sauce coats the pasta. Taste, season with remaining salt if necessary.

Divide into individual serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Serves 6