This is what comfort food is all about for me. This dish was born out of my craving for these beautiful little baby cauliflower. I spotted them at the market about a week ago and because I was rushed they didn't make it into my cart. I had been thinking about them for a week (yes, I know... it's a sickness), so when I went back to do my shopping today the baby cauliflower quickly made it into my cart. The challenge now was to prepare a dish in which they would not get lost- or mushy. I used dry Pappardelle pasta, but any shape would work fine. I could have left the bacon out, but the thought of frying the pine nuts and cauliflower in the bacon fat was too good to pass up- gotta love that bacon! baby cauliflower are a bit milder and more tender than the mature variety, but those could be easily substituted instead.
I finished the dish off with a nice nutty Parmegiano-Regianno, I love good cheese. This is my favorite kind of food, simple, quick and satisfying, you can prepare this dish in under 30 minutes. For the bread crumbs, make your own by chopping some day old French bread, place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. After the bread toasts I crush it up with my hands, but you could also give it a quick run through the food processor. The recipe is cooked in parts, I keep the cookie sheet used to bake the bread out and put my cooked ingredients on it while they wait to go back in the pan. When everything is cooked I place the pasta in a large heavy pot, combine all ingredients, shave the parmesan with a vegetable peeler and top the dish with the reserved bread crumbs and cheese. I use a large pot instead of the skillet because I like to have plenty off room to toss the ingredients together.
Pappardelle with Baby Cauliflower, Pine Nuts and Bacon
1/2 lb. dry pappardelle pasta
8 baby cauliflower
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 strips of bacon, chopped
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over pasta
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling on top
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to a boil. Drop the cauliflower in and cook for 2 minutes, pull them out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Bring the water back to a boil and drop the pasta in, cook until al dente, drain and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring occasionally for a few minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, over medium high heat fry bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and set aside. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and saute until they begin to caramelize. Reduce heat to medium, add pine nuts, cauliflower, thyme and garlic to skillet and cook until golden about 5-8 minutes. Place the cooked pasta in a large heavy pot, drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta, just enough to coat it and add half of the bread crumbs, chopped parsley, 1/2 cup grated cheese and bacon and saute over medium-low heat until everything is heated through. Check for seasoning and serve hot, topping with reserved bread crumbs and shaved parmesan cheese.
One last note, this is my favorite Le Creuset pot- I use it almost daily!