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Creamy Picatta Orecchiette over Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

The sprightly flavor of picatta sauce has long been a favorite of mine, harkening back to my dark pre-vegan days when as a restaurant chef I sautéed many decidedly nonvegan picatta dishes.  So strong was my affinity to the lemony caper sauce that vegan picatta recipes using seitan or tofu were among the first that I developed after going vegan.
Recently I wondered what could make a picatta sauce even better and the answer was so simple, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before:  make it creamy!
Riffing off the lemon sauce in this recipe, I added the picatta-like notes of capers and white wine and then it occurred to me that it would make an amazing pasta sauce.  I decided on orrechiette since I knew the “little ears” would do a great job of holding the flavorful sauce.  To keep the dish on the light side, slabs of roasted cauliflower served as the base for the sauce-cloaked pasta, resulting in a harmonious symphony of flavors and textures. (I already knew I loved the flavor combo of cauliflower + picatta from this recipe.)
You can serve the creamy sauce over sautéed seitan, tempeh, or tofu, ala classic piccata, or simply serve it over roasted vegetables.  I could even see doubling the sauce and using it for a lemony mac and cheese variation.  But I do hope you’ll try it the way I made it — tossed with pasta and served over roasted cauliflower — because I found this combination to be, quite simply, perfection.
Creamy Picatta Orecchiette over Roasted Cauliflower Steaks
1 head cauliflower, cored
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (optional)
1 to 2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
4 scallions, chopped (optional)
Olive oil, for cooking
6 to 8 ounces orecchiette or other bite-sized pasta
Creamy Picatta Sauce:
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned cannelini beans, drained and rinsed if canned
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup dry white wine (see note)
1/4 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon fresh minced basil, parsley, or chives
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, cored side down and cut it into 1/2-inch slices, as if you were cutting a loaf of bread.
Arrange the cauliflower slices on a lightly oiled baking pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until tender and nicely browned, about 30 minutes, turning once with a large metal spatula about halfway through. If using tomatoes, mushrooms, and scallions, add them to the roasting pan at this point. While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the pasta and make the sauce.
Add the pasta to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until just tender.  Drain and return to the pot.
Creamy Picatta Sauce:
In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine the white beans, wine, broth, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne and blend until very smooth.  Pour the sauce into the pot with the cooked and drained pasta.  Add the capers and basil and toss to combine
To serve, arrange the roasted cauliflower and other vegetables if using on plates and spoon the pasta and sauce on top. Serve hot.

Note: if you don’t want to use wine, just use more vegetable broth (in the same amount).

Recipe by Robin Robertson © 2012