When I met David Tanis in Paris, he was the head chef at Alice Waters’s legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. David now writes cookbooks and my favorite food column in the New York Times. This wildly popular recipe is from his column. I love the creamy cauliflower with the crispy pasta plus sage, capers, garlic, and Fontina.

Gameplan: Grate (or rather, grind) the Pecorino in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Also, you can make this dish ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover, and refrigerate. Bake before serving.

Photographs by Quentin Bacon. Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, Copyright @2016, published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients (14)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3⁄4 pound medium shells, such as Barilla
  • Good olive oil
  • 2 1⁄2 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (3 cloves)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, freshly grated and lightly packed (10 ounces with rind)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fresh ricotta
  • 1⁄2 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
  • 6 tablespoons Italian Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half the cauliflower in one layer, and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta. Add 3 more tablespoons of oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender, and add to the bowl.
  4. Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully. Stir in the Fontina.
  5. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 × 13 × 2-inch rectangular baking dish. Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top.
  6. Combine the panko, Pecorino, parsley, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.