Sausage and Cauliflower Pasta with Cucumber and Tomato Salad
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta with lines
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
- 1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (eyeball it)
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (eyeball it)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1 English (seedless) cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced into half moons
- 20 leaves basil, chopped
- 1/2 small head cauliflower, cored and chopped into little bits
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, chopped or finely grated
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup white wine (eyeball it)
- 1 cup chicken stock (eyeball it)
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (about 2 handfuls)
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus some to pass at the table
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped (a couple of handfuls)
Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring up to a boil to cook the pasta. Once boiling, add some salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Right before draining, remove and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
Place a large skillet with two turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons, over high heat. Add the sausage and cook and brown while breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon into small pieces, about 5 minutes.
While the sausage is browning, make the dressing for the salad: in the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the mustard with the vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Whisk in 1/4 cup EVOO in a slow steady stream. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and basil and toss to combine.
Add the cauliflower, onion, garlic and some salt and pepper to the sausage and continue to cook, stirring every now and then until the cauliflower starts to take on a little bit of color, about 5 minutes.
While the cauliflower is working with the sausage, place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast until golden, stirring frequently, a couple of minutes.
To the cauliflower add the white wine, add the chicken stock, reserved pasta cooking liquid and golden raisins, then bring up to a bubble and simmer for a couple of minutes, just until the cauliflower is tender. Add the drained pasta and toasted pine nuts and stir to combine. Continue to cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and add the grated Pecorino Romano. Serve the pasta with some more Pecorino Romano to pass at the table and the salad alongside.