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Spicy Cauliflower Ragù with Lemony Breadcrumbs

by Andy Baraghani from The Cook You Want To Be

Andy Baraghani's vegetable-based ragù is full of flavour, with anchovy, red pepper flakes and cauliflower used to create a deeply flavourful take on this Bolognese classic.

From the book


I’ve developed four or five Bolognese variations, and I hold my recipe for classic Bolognese dear to my heart (find it at But it’s this cauliflower recipe that takes the top spot for me. Breaking the cauliflower into tiny bits in a food processor lets the veg retain its shape while also, somehow, developing an almost velvety texture—not unlike slow-cooked ground meat—as it cooks. I tend to crave denser pastas to go with the sauce that gets all the yummy things: anchovies, onion, and garlic and a healthy amount of olive oil. A squeeze of tomato paste makes it taste like a sauce that has been bubbling all day.

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Kosher salt
1 head cauliflower
3 tbsp + ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup (90g) panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
freshly ground pepper
1 large red onion, or 2 large shallots, very thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or 1 red chile, thinly sliced
½ cup tomato paste
1 pound (455g) bucatini, spaghetti, or rigatoni
2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup (15g) finely chopped parsley

Essential kit

You will need: a food processor.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then throw in a handful of salt (about ¼ cup / 72g).

Break off the florets from the cauliflower and coarsely chop the stems. In a food processor, and working in batches, pulse the cauliflower until the pieces are the size of lentils (some smaller and some larger ones are fine), transferring the cauliflower to a bowl as you go. (If you don’t have a food processor, just finely chop the cauliflower and it’ll still be delicious.)

Meanwhile, pour the 3 tablespoons olive oil into another large pot and place over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and gently fry, stirring often, until they have become crisp and deeply golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and season generously with salt and ground pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the pot, pour in the remaining ¼ cup (60ml) olive oil, and place over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are almost jamlike, and lightly caramelised, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the anchovies to the pot and sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. Cook until the anchovies have completely melted into the onion and garlic, about 2 minutes. Plop in the tomato paste and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until you have a thick, deeply red paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring, until it has cooked down slightly and begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt, then keep warm over low heat.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than what the package suggests (it’ll finish cooking in the sauce). Just before the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups (470ml) pasta water. Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the sauce, along with the butter and 1 cup of pasta water. Simmer over medium heat, tossing the pasta around, until the sauce has thickened and clings to the pasta, about 3 minutes. If the sauce looks too thick, add more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin.

Turn off the heat, add the parsley, and quickly toss with the tongs to evenly distribute. Divide the pasta among the bowls, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, and serve.

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From the book: The Cook You Want To Be

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