PPC (Pasta Picante con Coliflor)

If Spanish is not your strong suit, this recipe is a Spicy Cauliflower Pasta! Ever since my college years, my go to meal was any variation of creamy, cheesy, pasta. My first pasta dish that I ever made was a 5 cheese chicken penne pasta. This will be a more grown up version from that. This dish can be completely gluten free if you use g-free panko or breadcrumbs and use g-free pasta.

If you are using g-free pasta, you will want want to check your pasta, so that it finished cooking with the sauce, and not get mushy. That, in Alton Brown’s words, is not good eats.

This PPC, is creamy, with a lot of different textures: creamy sauce, a little bit of bite from the cauliflower, the crunch from the panko topping, the freshness from the lemon zest and heat from the red pepper flakes!

Here’s how to make it!

4 servings; max 30 minutes.

Panko topping:

  • 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • A splash of Olive oil (even better if you have garlic infused)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

The Pasta itself:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Black pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil
  • Rigatoni (I used 14 ounces)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (you could use coconut cream if you want it dairy free.)
  • 1 shallot
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon

How to:

Panko topping:

  • Heat the pan to Medium, (I used my 13 inch All Clad Stainless Steel pan) and add a splash of Olive oil.
  • Add the cup of panko
  • Season with salt and pepper and add the butter
  • Cook until golden brown
  • Set aside in a bowl


  • In a pot of boiling water, season with salt, add some Olive Oil, add the rigatoni and cook 11-12 minutes. You will want to take them out of the pan 1-2 minutes from what the box instructions tell you. You will finish cooking the pasta with the sauce.
  • To the head of cauliflower, take all of the green pieces out, and cut into bite size pieces. You do not want florets, tiny want a smaller size than that.
  • If you have bigger sizes like the picture above, but them into smaller pieces.
    Throw the cauliflower into the pan you cooked your panko topping, cut the shallot into strips, and add to the cauliflower. Season with Salt and Red Pepper flakes. Cook for about 5-10 minutes. You want to see that there is a crust forming in the bottom of the pan. That’s called a fond and you will use that to add flavor to the sauce once we deglaze it.
    I realized that my cauliflower was still to big (previous picture) so I cut it a little bit more. After cooking for 10 minutes, check seasoning. I wanted it SPICY, so I added more red pepper flakes.
    Add the cream to the cauliflower and deglaze that pan. While it should look sort of brown (depending on the fond that you created), that makes it AMAZING.
Cut into smaller pieces.
Added the cream
    Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan, some of that pasta water and mix well. Add ALL OF THE PARMESAN CHEESE. Why? Because life is too short not to. Add water as needed. It’s better to see it a little bit looser than you want it to be. The pasta will keep absorbing all of that deliciousness. I added more cheese, because why not? And some lemon zest.
  • Serve in a bowl. Top with more cheese (there can never be enough) and the panko topping. You could add more red pepper flakes, if that’s your thing. Parsley, chives or green onions are good too. I was sad that I did not have any.

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