This cauliflower pasta salad is full of bright, fresh flavours. Roasted cauliflower is tossed together with pasta, crispy capers, chickpeas and arugula in a lemon dressing. Toasted parmesan panko breadcrumbs add an extra element of flavor which brings it all together. The result is a delicious pasta salad that can be enjoyed any time of year.
A cauliflower pasta salad to love
Tons of flavor: this pasta salad recipe is loaded with flavor thanks to the combination of freshly squeezed lemon juice and pan-fried crispy capers, together with umami rich parmesan and my go-to choice of bread crumbs — flaky Japanese-style breadcrumbs called panko. Toasted, they manage to bring any dish, to a new level of deliciousness.
Lots of plant-based goodness: Roasted cauliflower, arugula leaves and chickpeas make up the bulk of this pasta salad recipe. All of which nourish our bodies with beneficial nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals as well as plant-based protein.
Easy to prepare: Although there are a few different steps involved in preparing this cauliflower pasta salad, it’s actually really easy. The capers are toasted followed by the chickpeas, and finally the breadcrumbs. All while the cauliflower roasts in the oven. The pasta practically cooks itself and then all that’s left is to toss it all together. The great thing is, you can also enjoy the leftovers. Just add a little extra squeeze of lemon juice if you need to revamp the flavors.
Ingredient tips for this pasta salad recipe:
- Pasta: I recommend a shorter type of pasta for this recipe, I like strozzapreti, which is twisted pasta — volanti, spirals or fusilli are also great choices.
- Cauliflower: Florets are roasted which transforms ordinary cauliflower into something extraordinary. Noting that we should be careful not to crowd on the baking sheet, otherwise it will steam.
- Arugula: I recommend young arugula leaves as they aren’t overly dominating. Lemon juice and parmesan are a great match with these peppery leaves.
- Chickpeas: Be sure to pat them dry with a paper towel before frying them, this will help them crisp up. I also find using a heavy-bottomed skillet also helps.
- Toasted bread crumbs: panko can be found in well-stocked supermarkets or Asian food stores. They are very light and flaky and when toasted add extra umami to this dish.
- Dressing: I kept it simple with lemon juice, as the other ingredients are prepared with olive oil. Feel free to add an extra drizzle of olive oil to the salad, or more lemon juice if desired.
Looking for other pasta salad ideas?
Try one of these delicious recipes:
- Broccoli Pasta Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
- Winter Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables & Buttermilk Dressing
- Caesar Pasta Salat (vegan)
- Summer Pasta Salad with Fresh Corn, Tomato and Basil
Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Salad with Chickpeas
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained and patted dry
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 x 400 g can organic chickpeas, drained, rinsed, patted dry
- pinch red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper)
- 225 g strozzapreti, gemelli, or other medium pasta
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 100 g baby arugula
- Grated parmesan, to garnish
For the toasted panko bread crumbs:
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (25 g)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C (180°C Fan) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Transfer the cauliflower to the baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, spread out in an even level, making sure not to overcrowd.
In a large, deep-sided skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add capers and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisped, about 3-4 minutes (if needed use a lid or spray guard to prevent the oil from splattering).
Transfer capers to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the oil in the skillet. Set capers aside.
Add the chickpeas to the same skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until beginning to crisp about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and and season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until chilled. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.
To prepare the toasted bread crumbs, in a small non-stick skillet heat 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter on medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the panko and cook, stirring continuously, until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the grated parmesan. Set aside.
Add the roasted cauliflower to the bowl with the pasta, as well as the lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, chickpeas and capers. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Add the rucola and a sprinkle of grated parmesan. Toss gently.
Sprinkle half of the toasted panic breadcrumbs over the pasta salad and toss again gently to incorporate. Top with the remaining bread crumb and garnish with more parmesan, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!
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