Recipe for Pasta, Cauliflower, Parmesan
This 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.
- 12 oz or 1 lb of hearty pasta
- You don't want spaghetti or angel hair. You want something with some
bite. Check the cooking instructions and see if it needs at least 10
minutes. Use dried pasta. This dish is not as good with the freshly
- 4 oz or more of good bacon
- Use pancetta, or the best thick cut slab bacon you can find. We use a
local product from Sunny Farms in Sequim. If you just can't find good
bacon, or you are scavenging your fridge, you can even use ham or
- 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil (optional)
- You might want this if your bacon is not very fatty. Try cooking
without it and see.
- 1 head cauliflower - You can make this dish year round, but do
use fresh cauliflower. Frozen cauliflower doesn't have the right
texture, and farm fresh cauliflower stands up to the bacon better.
- 4 to 6 ounces of parmesan cheese
- Any real parmesan cheese will work. Obviously, the better your
cheese, the better the dish.
- 2 - 4 tablespoons of capers
- We like lots of these. You can probably use caperberries, but you
might want to cut them up for the right feel.
- thyme - Use a tablespoon
fresh or a half teaspoon dried. Oregano or marjoram will work in a
- salt and pepper - The
food equivalent of adjusting the gamma curve on your computer display.
We rarely need to add salt, since the bacon is plenty salty, but adjust
to your taste.
- 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).
- 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).
- Dice the bacon into bit 1/2" chunks. This is a hearty dish. Cook
it in a big pan over medium high heat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the capers, thyme and some pepper and toss.
- 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.
- Add the pasta to the cauliflower, bacon, cheese mix (or vice
versa) and toss.
- Serve with a good red wine.