The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to the nutty, full-bodied flavor of whole wheat pasta. Although this dish could be made vegetarian without the pancetta, I think the cured pork is a natural flavor enhancer for these ingredients. In addition, I’ve added shallots and a sprig of thyme (sage would do just as well).
This dish can be ready in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. The shallots, pancetta and cauliflower are placed in a large saute pan with olive oil, and allowed to come to a simmer. While the pasta cooks, the vegetables simmer, with the addition of some pasta water from time to time, if the cauliflower mixture begins to brown too fast.
At the end, all that is needed to bring the sauce together is some additional pasta water and some raw extra-virgin olive oil, off the heat. In addition, I like to sprinkle this dish heavily with grated pecorino romano and black pepper.
As a main course, tonight, we had veal scaloppine (see chicken scaloppine with white wine and shallots ), along with caramelized brussels sprouts and chestnuts.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Cauliflower and Pancetta
1 lb whole wheat pasta (I’m using pappardelle, but penne or fusilli would be fine)
1 head cauliflower, center trunk discarded, cut into small florets
3 shallots, peeled and diced
2 oz. pancetta, sliced thin, then diced into 1″ pieces
1/4 c + 1 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbls fresh chopped parsley
grated pecorino romano for sprinkling
While pasta water is coming to the boil, place pancetta, shallots and all but 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a broad skillet on low heat. Slowly bring up to a sizzle.
Saute for about 5 minutes, then add cauliflower. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring and flipping every couple of minutes.
If the pieces begin to brown too quickly, add some pasta cooking liquid. Taste, add salt and black pepper and the parsley.
While pasta boils, allow the cauliflower to continue simmering until it is uniformly tender. When pasta is cooked, add to the skillet, along with a couple of tablespoons of cooking water.
stir and toss for about a minute to combine. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Serve immediately.