At first, this looked to be an odd combination, but it turned out to be very tasty. In fact, the breadcrumbs alone were good enough to eat with a spoon. And for a change (for me), the cauliflower isn’t roasted. Or served with cheddar cheese. A breakthrough!
The pasta, orecchiette, was not new to me. I like this pasta because of the different textures and chewiness which result from the different thickness of the pasta. And the names for different pastas are often charming! Orecchiette are ‘small ears’ and are most often used for vegetable sauces. Perfect.
Here’s what happened.
Made some bread crumbs by grating some bread.
Toasted the bread crumbs in a fry pan with some olive oil.
While that was happening, chopped some bacon.
Got the cauliflower out of the fridge and cut it up.
After the bacon was cooked, the cauliflower and garlic went into the pan.
While the cauliflower and garlic were cooking, started cooking the pasta.
When the pasta was cooked, it was added to the cauliflower and bacon and mixed with some reserved liquid from draining the pasta.
The pasta mixture was sprinkled with with bread crumbs and Parmesan and served.
This recipe came from The Serious Eats website.
Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Bacon and Breadcrumbs
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, thicker stems removed
3/4 lb dried orecchiette or cavatelli pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 pound bacon or pancetta, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil for the pasta. In the meantime, prepare the cauliflower and grate bread for crumbs, if necessary.
In a large heavy skillet, heat 1 and a half tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, then add the bread crumbs. Toast, stirring often, until golden and slightly crisp. Remove to a small bowl and wipe the skillet clean.
Cook the bacon in the same skillet over medium-high heat a few minutes until the fat renders, then add the cauliflower pieces, garlic, and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring only very occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and the cauliflower is caramelized and golden.
In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a cup of pasta water. Drain and add pasta to the skillet, tossing to combine. Add olive oil and pasta water as needed to achieve a rich, slightly creamy consistency.
Serve with a shower of breadcrumbs, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese.