If you swear you hate cauliflower, you're probably wrong. I know, it seems out of line for me to accuse you of not knowing your own palate, but I'd be willing to bet that were a scientific study done on taste for cauliflower, it would reveal that the majority of people who "hate" it would actually like it—if it were prepared differently.
Most people have been subject to boiled cauliflower, which turns into an overcooked mush made doubly unpleasant by the trademark sulphurous stink of the cruciferous family of veggies. Roasting cauliflower deepens the flavors, caramelizes the florets and maintains texture.
In this recipe, roasted cauliflower gets tangled up in spaghetti, spiked with a few bits of bacon, and further jazzed with crunchy, garlicky panko breadcrumbs. The sauce shows the difference a good, homemade stock can have on a dish. Since this is the season for roasting giant pieces of meat, put the remnants to good use (turkey, chicken, duck, ham) in a pot that yields rich, viscous stock. The liquid gold becomes a sturdy backdrop to soups and sauces. Big batches can be frozen in smaller servings for use in the months ahead. Vegetable broth can certainly be used, but will lack the body of liquids fortified with collagen and gelatin from meat and bones.
Cauliflower color and types vary from the most-recognized white to the uniquely spikey green Romanesco. The orange and purple varieties, which I used here, are said to be higher in vitamin content than their white cousins. Preparation methods are consistent regardless of the variety.
I recently made dinner for friends and took the risk of serving roasted cauliflower. All three would have aligned with the anti-cauliflower camp before. All three had seconds and asked for the recipe. Aren't taste turnarounds the best?
- Yield:serves 4
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves plucked (stems discarded), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 cups rich stock, preferably homemade (chicken, turkey, duck or ham)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven arranged with two rack to 400° F. Wash the cauliflower, trim the leaves, and slice in half lengthwise, through the core. Cut out the tough stem core section and then split the cauliflower into florets. Put the florets in a baking dish with the garlic and coat everything with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to the top rack in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and browning.
Lay the bacon strips a few inches apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Set in the oven on the lower rack for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the oven and transfer the bacon slices to a paper towel to soak up excess grease.
While the cauliflower roasts, toast the breadcrumbs in a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat, just until golden. Remove them to a plate and set aside. Add the butter to the sauté pan and melt. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, taking care not to burn it.
Pour the melted butter and garlic over the toasted breadcrumbs in a medium mixing bowl and stir in the herbs. Crumble the bacon into the breadcrumbs. Stir well to combine everything. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the cauliflower is done remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Chop the roasted florets into small pieces.
Heat the stock to a simmer in a wide, high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drop the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water and cook until just underdone. Drain the pasta and then add it to the simmering stock. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, the olive oil and the butter.
Divide the pasta amongst individual bowls or serve on a platter. Sprinkle the bacon breadcrumbs on top and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.