I was beginning to worry about my brussels sprouts obsession, and could not remember the last time I cooked a different vegetable. It's not entirely my fault. The other night I asked J-Cat what he would prefer with the Chicken Adobo - brussels sprouts or bok choy. He just looked at me like, do you really have to ask? Whenever he eats brussels sprouts he has a tendency to wistfully sigh and state that he loves them so much. If he ever leaves me for a vegetable, I'll know which one.
But if you remember not so long ago, I was in a different vegetable obsession phase, with my other dear friend cauliflower. I have a feeling this internal battle will go back and forth repeatedly and I'll never be able to declare a victor, but I feel like I can confidently state that my favorite of all time is one of the two. Or beets. Damn. I really love beets.
This is one of those easy easy pastas that tastes like so much more than it is. The pancetta is lovely, but more than the crunchy porky bits is the fat that renders and coats every piece of pasta and cauliflower with an almost buttery flavor. Topped with lightly toasted bread crumbs for crunch, this pasta hits all of the important elements of deliciousness. Recipe after the jump:
GARGANELLI WITH CAULIFLOWER, PANCETTA, AND BREAD CRUMBS
Adapted from Serious Eats, Nov. 4, 2008
1 pound garganelli, or orecchiete, or cavatelli
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan
1. 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.
2. In a large heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon 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.
3. Cook the pancetta 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 pancetta is crisp and the cauliflower is caramelized and golden.
4. 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.
5. Serve with a shower of breadcrumbs, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese.