Looking for a healthy meal for dinner? Try this recipe for a Creamy Romesco & Roasted Cauliflower Penne from The Plant-Based Cookbook. 

Read the recipe excerpt for the Creamy Romesco & Roasted Cauliflower Penne below.


Romesco is a bold, smoky, tangy sauce originating from Spain. I like to make mine with whole almonds and home-roasted red peppers or roasted red peppers packed in water. Paired with simple roasted cauliflower and whole grain or legume-based pasta, you have an easy yet elegant meal. If you like a really saucy pasta, double the sauce! Serve this on its own or with a simple side salad.

Makes 4 servings

6 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets (1 medium-large head cauliflower)
½ lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
12 ounces brown rice or red lentil penne

Romesco Sauce
1/3 cup whole almonds, soaked in water for 6–8 hours
1/2 packed cup roasted red peppers (see how-to on page 193)
2 small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup water

1/4 cup Hickory Almond Parmesan or Bacon-ish Bits 

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Spread the cauliflower out on the pan, squeeze the lemon over the cauliflower, place the lemon on the sheet pan, and season the cauliflower with salt and several grinds of black pepper. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until the cauliflower is tender and the edges of the florets begin to brown.

3. Meanwhile, make the Romesco sauce. Drain the almonds and discard the soaking water. Transfer the drained almonds and all other sauce ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely smooth. Taste and reseason and add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and blend again if a thinner sauce is desired. Set aside.

4. Halfway through the cauliflower cooking time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. When the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot. You can serve this dish by dividing the pasta among bowls and then adding Romesco sauce or you can add all the Romesco sauce to the pasta and mix well. Once the pasta is plated, top with roasted cauliflower, another squeeze of the roasted lemon, and garnish with Hickory Almond Parmesan or Bacon-ish Bits.

Roasting Peppers
Whenever I use roasted red peppers, I roast my own—the bottled versions don’t even compare! You can do this by preheating the oven to 450°F and placing whole peppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until the skins of the peppers are charred and wrinkled. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a large bowl and cover the bowl with a large plate to trap the steam. Let sit for 15 minutes. This allows the peppers to sweat and makes removing their skins easier. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off with your hands and remove the stems and seeds of each pepper and they’re ready to use.

Recipes excerpted from The Plant-Based Cookbook. Copyright © 2021 by Ashley Madden. Photography by Ashley Madden. Used with permission of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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