Chickpea Rigatoni with Cauliflower and Mushroom (Bolognese)

January 28, 2019 | Posted by Christie Bok

I’m not one to get preachy about eating a certain way, but I honestly do love replacing a routine chicken dinner with a vegetable-dense meal on Mondays. Not only does it make me feel great, but it gets me to the weekend farmers’ market, which more likely than not, means I’m bringing home an arm full of vegetables that I’ll either roast with olive oil, salt and pepper or imagine into something like Chickpea Rigatoni with Cauliflower and Mushroom Bolognese.

Cauliflower has undeniably been a craze the past few years. With products like artisan cauliflower pizza crust and Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi, this mild cruciferous vegetable surprises and delights as a low-carb alternative that kind of makes you forget you’re eating vegetables. Though the healthy swap is appealing, to me, the best part about cooking with cauliflower is that it’s a chameleon of an ingredient and when and sauteed with mushrooms in this recipe, becomes a hearty vegetable sauce that makes Meatless Monday satiating and exciting.

Luckily because of its pervasiveness, riced cauliflower is available at most grocery stores nowadays. Is the packaged variety ideal for making dinner on the fly? Totally. And it is Monday after all. But cauliflower is also easy enough to rice at home. Cut the cauliflower head into florets and in batches, pulse in a food processor until the florets take the size and shape of rice. I find the extra step of prep worth it in the end because ricing cauliflower from scratch yields a rice that is more tender and less dry than the packaged stuff.

Though I’m not going to say this tastes exactly Rigatoni Bolognese, it’s pretty darn close. And I think there are a few reasons for that. Sauteing basic aromatics of celery, carrots and onion as the base will instantly lend to the familiar flavors in a classic Italian meat sauce. Plus, the cremini mushrooms are firm enough that they won’t disappear in the sauce and once simmered in red wine, add the satisfying richness that I always crave from a big bowl of pasta.

As for the Banza rigatoni…yes, it really is made out of chickpeas! There’s no flour in sight. When I first tried chickpea pasta a few years ago, I was skeptical to say the least, thinking the texture would be mushy and the taste, too much like a legume. I was so wrong. When cooked until al dente, this pasta (which comes in a variety of long and short shapes) holds its own as a delicious source of plant-based protein that turns out to be a win-win for a filling meal.

Chickpea Rigatoni with Cauliflower and Mushroom (Bolognese)
Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 medium stalk celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ teaspoon Calabrian chili flakes
12 ounces riced cauliflower, or 1 small head of cauliflower, pulsed in food processor until finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth, pulsed in a food processor until coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup canned vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
8 ounces chickpea rigatoni, such as Banza
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter in a large Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but no color is obtained, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute more until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until the color deepens and becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the heat to high, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the red wine and using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cook until the wine is completely reduced about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have melded, about 15 minutes.

4. While the sauce is cooking, make the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Strain and rinse the pasta, return to the pot that it was cooked in and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

5. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and taste for seasoning. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in 1/4 cup of pecorino romano. Garnish with chopped parsley and sprinkle each bowl with remaining cheese.

Inspired by Bon Appetit’s Cauliflower Bolognese