Pasta with cauliflower and bacon
April 13, 2010 § 5 Comments
So, we just had to do a fridge clean out before we both left to travel for a couple of weeks. One of us to Africa for work, the other to Northern Minnesota for a visit to her parents. No, I’m not jealous, I swear. Minnesota’s way more exciting than Nigeria and Kenya. We may not have giraffes and lions but we have…um…we have squirrels! And deer! And currently sh*t loads of rabbits eating any plants that are starting to dare to peek into the sunshine. And it’s, well, colder, that’s for sure (I hear it’s over 100F in Abuja, while my mom and I had to bundle up in fleeces and windbreakers for our morning hike. What is this spring I keep hearing about other places?). Anyway, back to refrigerator cleaning, which tends to lead to some very interesting eating adventures, in my experience. I have been known to eat a bowl of rice with canned tuna and mustard and cherry tomatoes, for example. Not James Beard award winning material. But, the results of this fridge survey were slightly more promising: a couple slices of bacon (hurrah!), a chunk of Parmesan cheese, a couple of eggs, and the leftover half of a cauliflower that was getting a very light brownish hue around the edges, which is the vegetable equivalent of looking at you balefully and whimpering, “please cook me, or I shall go bad!” Point taken, cauliflower.
The question became, what to do with the cauliflower and bacon to turn them into a supper. I suppose I could have made bacon sandwiches with cauliflower crudites. That would have been, different. And I strongly considered making an omelet with roasted cauliflower – but then I ran this thought through the how-many-eggs-have-I-already-eaten-today?-checkometer, and discarded that idea (save ’em for breakfast!). So finally, I decided to make pasta with cauliflower. It was delicious. I would make it even if I weren’t trying to use up everything in my fridge.
I know some people turn up their noses when they hear pasta with cauliflower because it sounds like some health-nut substitute for adding something else (though I’m not sure what) to pasta. But, I have to say, I rather like cauliflower in my pasta (provided it’s been well cooked). It creates a nice texture contrast and can add delicious flavor. You could just roast the cauliflower, tossed with olive oil, salt, and some red pepper flakes and then toss it with pasta, more olive oil, and Parmesan (or some other cheese). Or, you can lightly steam the cauliflower, then sautee it with garlic and red pepper flakes. Which, if you are also frying bacon, I strongly suggest because you can fry the cauliflower in the bacon fat. Yum. Or, if you aren’t using bacon, I really recommend adding a few anchovy fillets to the cauliflower as you cook it. Anchovies are so much better than people give them credit for being!! They’re salty and oily and full of umami flavor and really delicious.
If you’re using either bacon or anchovies and garlic, you could skip the cheese and still have plenty of flavor in the pasta. You could also add some toasted nuts to bump up the protein and give it some nutty, toasty flavor, which goes nicely with cauliflower. And, there’s no rule that says you have to use pasta either. If what you have in your pantry is couscous (okay fine, that’s technically a type of pasta, isn’t it), or bulgur wheat or something, you could try using that instead. That’s what emptying the fridge is all about.
Pasta with Cauliflower and Bacon (serves 3-4)
- 1/2 (or more) of a large head of cauliflower
- about 4 pieces of bacon (or 3-4 fillets of oil-packed anchovies)
- a couple cloves garlic, minced
- a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. depending on how much kick you want
- olive oil
- 8-12 oz uncooked pasta (I had about 2/3 a package that I used)
- Parmesan cheese to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Remove the cauliflower florets from the stem and cut them into smaller pieces. Lightly steam the cauliflower until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, in a large frying pan fry the bacon until crisp, then remove the bacon to a plate with a paper towel on it to drain. Leave a layer of the bacon grease in the frying pan for frying the cauliflower. Or, if you’re not using bacon, heat a big splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high. Add minced garlic to the frying pan, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic softens. If using anchovies, stir those in.
- Next, add the steamed cauliflower florets and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is getting golden brown on its edges.
- Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until al dente, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the cauliflower, an extra drizzle of olive oil, and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, adding a splash of pasta water if it needs some extra moisture to mix together well. Break the bacon into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the pasta, and add salt and pepper to taste.