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Pasta with Cauliflower and Pancetta

When it comes to cauliflower that’s a vegetable that can take on any flavour. We already know cauliflower can replace so many dishes like mashed potatoes, rice, pizza crust and probably your friends…but, we aren’t going to replace anything in this pasta dish, we are using the cauliflower for what it is, cauliflower. I was very happy when developing this pasta dish, it really came out the way I wanted it to, so creamy and delicious. Enjoy!


Recipe by Mark Calaminici | Food Loves Company

Serves 4


60g walnut halves, chopped up

1 head of garlic, slice the top to reveal the cloves

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

150g Pancetta, cut into small strips

½ small sweet onion, finely chopped

30g unsalted butter

Chili flakes, to taste

80g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

10g fresh parsley, finely chopped

1lb Spaghetti


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a dry frying pan over medium heat, add walnuts and toast for 4-5 min, tossing frequently until golden brown. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, you can chop up more or leave as is. Place in a bowl and set aside.

3. Peel and discard the papery outer layers of the garlic bulb. Slice the top half of the garlic head off. You want to see the cloves exposed. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper on the exposed cloves. Cover garlic head tightly in foil and place on a sheet pan and place in oven for 45-50 minutes or until cloves are golden and aromatic. Set aside.

4. Place half of cauliflower florets in a large bowl. You can keep these florets on the smaller size as they can be for garnish and mixed into the pasta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Toss to incorporate all the ingredients. Place cauliflower florets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes. Set aside.

5. In a large enough pot, place a steamer basket and fill enough water to just reach just below the basket. Add the other half cauliflower florets into the steamer basket and bring water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and steam the cauliflower until you can pierce a knife through easily. Depending on the size of your florets it could take anywhere from 15-25 minutes. Remove the cauliflower florets from the steamer basket and set aside.

6. In a frying pan over low-medium heat, add pancetta and cook until it starts to render and get crispy. Once cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towel. Set aside. In the same pan with either the rendered pancetta fat or you can remove and add a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, add onions, butter and season with salt and sauté until softened.

7. In a blender, add the steamed cauliflower, onions, roasted garlic and a ladle or two of water but you can stock, cream or milk. You want a bit of a looser sauce, as it’ll thicken up when added to the pasta and the cheese. Remove to a bowl and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Set aside.

8. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water just before al dente, as we will finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Reserve pasta water.

9. In a pan on medium heat, add the cauliflower sauce to heat up. When pasta is ready, add to the pan with a ladle of pasta water. Continue to cook the pasta in the pan, stirring and tossing, adding more pasta water if needed. Add the pancetta, mix and toss. Turn off the heat or remove the pan from the heat and add the walnuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano, mixing and tossing to incorporate into the pasta. Add parsley, mix and toss. You can add some of the roasted cauliflower to the pasta or just use for garnish. Serve and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano, walnuts, parsley and roasted cauliflower. Enjoy!


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