Recipe for Pasta, Cauliflower, Parmesan & Pancetta

The Dish in a PanThis is a quintessential pasta dish that just reeks of Italy. You can make it with any hearty pasta, like rigatoni or rosette, and it is best with fresh cauliflower. This is a good dish to make when you find a really good cauliflower at the market and just couldn't resist. Raw cauliflower can be a bit much in quantity, but this dish lets you turn a whole head into a great meal.



  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Our stove is slow, so we always start this first. You'll need a couple of quarts. Check the instructions on your pasta package if you are in doubt. When the pot comes to a boil, add the pasta and start timing. This dish is best if the pasta is cooked al dente (that is, slightly undercooked). You can go on to the next step while the pot comes to a boil. Just pay attention and add the pasta when the water boils. Set a timer, and check the pasta while you are making the goodies. When it is ready, drain it and add the cheese. (See below).
  2. Grate half of the parmesan cheese and leave it ready to add to the pasta when it is cooked. (See below for what happens to the other half of the pasta).
  3. Dice the bacon into bit 1/2" chunks. This is a hearty dish. Cook it in a big pan over medium high heat.
  4. Cut the cauliflower into florets. When the bacon has started to render and brown, add these to the pan. If your bacon is not rendering much fat, you should add a little olive oil now.
  5. Cut the other half the parmesan cheese into little chunks. You can grate it, but we like the uneveness you get from 1/2" chunks. When the cauliflower is cooked and tender, but not mooshy, add the parmesan and stir. Leave the heat on so that it partly melts and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Stir, toss and scrape.
  6. When the cheese has melted, it changes flavor and texture. You want to melt it and brown it, but not char it, so remove your pan from the heat and keep on scraping.
  7. Add the capers, thyme and some pepper and toss.
  8. At some point above, the water probably boiled, and you added the pasta. Then, the pasta was ready and you drained it in a colander. Add the grated cheese to the pasta and toss it so that the cheese coats the pasta. If the pasta is done before everything else, this will keep it from clotting while the cauliflower et al catch up.
  9. Add the pasta to the cauliflower, bacon, cheese mix (or vice versa) and toss.
  10. Serve with a good red wine.

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