Culinary Institute of America Recipe
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Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto

Here’s to Your Heart!

Everybody loves a hearty bowl of pasta, and this whole wheat penne dish is an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet. This dish features an abundance of vegetables and herbs, healthy fats and carbohydrates, fiber, nutrients—and deliciousness. Pesto, typically made with basil, can be made with a variety of herbs, including arugula, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme. Pesto originated in Genoa, Italy and gets its name because it was originally made with a mortar and pestle.

Watch our video on how to make fresh pesto at home >

Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto recipe by The Culinary Institute of America



Makes 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds cauliflower, sliced in 2-inch x 2-inch pieces
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher or sea salt, as needed
  • Ground black pepper, as needed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2/3 cup Parsley Pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup oil-cured black olives (such as niçoise, kalamata, or Cerignola), pitted and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Crushed red pepper, as needed (optional)
  • 3/4 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved
  • Fresh mint sprigs for garnish, as needed

Parsley Pesto

  • 3 cups packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons roasted garlic, chopped (see Chef’s notes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pistachios, almonds, or pine nuts, toasted (see Chef’s notes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan or Asiago cheese, freshly grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt, as needed
  • Ground black pepper, as needed



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Brush both sides of the cauliflower with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, or until the cauliflower is nicely browned and tender.
  3. In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. In a large warm bowl, add 1/2 cup of the pesto and some of the reserved hot water, stirring to create a sauce. Add the hot pasta along with the cauliflower, olives, beans, and crushed red pepper (if using); toss to coat with the pesto sauce. If the mixture seems dry, adjust by adding a small amount of the reserved hot water and the remaining pesto. Top with cheese and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. To roast garlic: Cut off the top 1/3 of a head of garlic. Place the garlic on a square of aluminum foil large enough to enclose it. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap the garlic in the foil, and seal closed to make a pouch. Roast in a 400-degree F oven until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. To roast nuts: Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a sheet tray and place in a 350-degree F oven and roast for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown, checking frequently to prevent burning.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine the parsley, garlic, pistachios, cheese, lemon zest, and olive oil and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
 Per serving: 451 CALORIES, 15 g PROTEIN, 45 g CARBOHYDRATES, 9 g FIBER, 24 g TOTAL FAT (6 g saturated fat), 721 mg SODIUM, 22 g CHOLESTEROL

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