Upstairs on the Square-Inspired Pasta

Sometimes when I eat out and I really like the dish, I immediately think of how I can re-create it at home. I’ve been successful with some restaurant-inspired dishes, like the Shrimp and Goat Cheese Salad from Woodward and the Chocolate Brioche Pudding from the Langham Hotel.  My most recent creation was a pasta dish inspired by a meal at Upstairs on the Square.

Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square is one of the prettiest, most festive-looking restaurants I know in Boston. Coming into the restaurant is like attending a dinner party hosted by your fabulous, zebra-print loving, purple-and-pink-clad girl friend. And the staff is very hospitable, so dining there feels like some sort of intimate gathering with your friends.

I had dinner there last week and the food was wonderful:

I had a Hot (bacon-wrapped) Date

My friend and I shared the Charred Artic Char…

…and the Cauliflower Strozzapreti

And this is what inspired me to create my own version at home. I love roasted veggies and recently, pasta consumption has become a regular occurrence in my life. I love how it is easy to prepare and pretty healthy (I always use whole wheat pasta and throw in lots of veggies). Also I’m not gonna lie but lately I have been craving carbs like nobody’s business. I would like to blame it on my half marathon training… I mean, if my schedule calls for running 9 or 10 miles tomorrow, I can carbo-load right? If the answer is no, I don’t want to hear it.

Cauliflower is bland by itself, but roasting cauliflower gives it a nutty flavor, and it blends perfectly with sweet and tender roasted garlic.

To offset the whiteness of the whole dish, I decided to make things more exciting. Yes, my idea of excitement is using tri-color shells instead of brown whole wheat pasta.

The Upstairs on the Square version had toasted brioche crumbs but I used chopped mushrooms instead, which also makes the dish a little meatier.

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower as a base, and here is the version I came up with:

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic

About 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cored and broken into small florets (I just bought a pack from Whole Foods, and broke the bigger ones into smaller pieces, probably about 1 or 2 inches)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces pasta (I used spinach and tomato shells)
1 pack white mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade version of pasta with roasted cauliflower and garlic

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss cauliflower and 5 cloves garlic with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly browned and tender, about 30-40 minutes, tossing once.

Cook pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and chopped mushrooms, saute for 6-8 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and brown. You can also throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want a little kick.

When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. When the cauliflower is done roasting, combine with pasta and mushrooms. Toss everything together, gradually adding enough pasta water to form a thin sauce that coats pasta. Serve topped with chopped chives and crumbled feta cheese.

this captured all the flavors I liked from the original version

I’m pretty happy with the results and so were my friends whom I forced to eat it I shared it with. This dish reheats nicely in the microwave, and for added nutrients, I threw in a handful of spinach before nuking. I also may or may not have thrown in an additional sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Have you been to Upstairs on the Square? What was the last restaurant-inspired dish you tried?

PS – I submitted this recipe to Melt in Your Mouth Mondays.


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