Nothing pleases me more than recycling leftovers creatively, and I must say, this was a brilliant exercise in recycling. I had a good amount of the batter from last night’s cauliflower fritters left, and rather than freeze it (or fry more fritters), I started contemplating its ingredients and how they might lend themselves to an entirely new incarnation.
Those ingredients consisted mainly of cauliflower, flour, egg, milk and lots of pecorino romano cheese–in a word–a great sauce for baked pasta. The mixture needed thinning, however, so I added some chicken broth as well as some half and half. It was now thin enough to be a sauce.
Add to that some toasted breadcrumb topping, which I made out of the ever-present pile of petrified bread scraps which sit in a bowl on my countertop. I ground the bread in the food processor and toasted the crumbs in some olive oil in a skillet, then added some fresh chopped parsley to brighten it. Finding ways to use these bread scraps also makes me extremely happy.
I couldn’t have created a better mac and cheese if I sought to make it this way in the first instance. For the fritter batter recipe, refer to mom’s cauliflower fritters, and by all means make both dishes at once!
The perfect accompaniment to this rich dish was some simply boiled broccoli and carrots–all the better to soak up the cheesiness and crumbs!
Baked Pasta with Cauliflower
serves 2 generously
2 1/2 c uncooked batter from cauliflower fritters
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c milk or half and half
1/2 lb cavatappi pasta (or any short fat pasta)
1 c homemade toasted bread crumbs (see below)
2 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Make breadcrumbs by grinding stale bread pieces in the food processor. Heat oil in small nonstick skillet briefly, then add breadcrumbs and saute, turning and stirring constantly on medium heat and add 1/4 teaspoon salt.
When the crumbs are golden (and not a moment longer–they scorch easily), add parsley and remove crumbs from skillet. Taste and add salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook pasta until 2 minutes shy of done. Drain and combine pasta with fritter batter. Pour into buttered baking dish and stir.
Top with crumbs and bake for about 40 minutes or until bubbly and golden.