Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon and Breadcrumbs-- the "Almost Meatless" flavorful dish

Cauliflower. Love it or hate it? Husband and I love it. Son doesn't. Until I made this dish. True story.

I admit, that steamed-- or, heaven forbid-- boiled cauliflower can be a bit boring and ...well, mushy.  However, when cauliflower is drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper--then roasted-- this vegetable takes on a nutty flavor that is a game changer.

I doubt that any bacon lover can resist trying a bite of cauliflower, if it has bacon added to it. Am I right? Oh, yeah.

Whenever I buy bacon, in bulk, I freeze the strips in my handy dandy plastic wrap technique.  Slicing frozen bacon into thin strips (lardons) is convenient to do.

Once the bacon is cooked until crispy, panko crumbs are added and is seasoned with salt & pepper.

This mixture will become the crumbly topping for the pasta dish....

Using the same skillet, cauliflower florets are browned (seasoned with a little salt, to draw out some of the moisture).  They are cooked for about 10 minutes, until nutty brown and set aside.

I should mentioned, right now, that this recipe comes from one of my favorite sources: Cook's Illustrated Magazine (March/April 2014).  I can, pretty much, rest assured that anything I make from CI is going to be good. I was intrigued that the pasta preparation for this dish is a bit unique, in that it's made "risotto style".  This eliminated the need to drain the pasta, by reducing the liquid to make it's own creamy sauce. Onion and thyme is cooked until softened, with a little oil.  Next the pasta is added with chicken broth and white wine.

The pasta is cooked until al dente (8-10 minutes), and the cauliflower is added into the pot with fresh parsley and fresh lemon juice.

Last, and certainly not least, the bacon-panko is added on top-- rather generously.  On a work night, this dinner was served in 45 minutes. I love this!

TASTING NOTES:  This recipe was a total success, in every way. The preparation wasn't complicated to do. All of the flavors worked in harmony, and the cauliflower was hearty and not mushy.  I loved the slightly crunchy texture of the cauliflower, the slightly al dente pasta and the crunchy, slightly salty flavor from the bacon.  The fresh lemon juice gave that guarantee of fresh and bright flavor.  Even my son liked this recipe, so that's a good sign.  I might add a little red pepper flakes to this dish, next time I make it. I would think that broccoli or fresh asparagus could be a good substitute, as well.  The bacon-panko topping, is the bees knees so I wouldn't leave this out.  
Bottom line: While the bacon (and chicken broth) eliminates calling this dish "vegetarian", it's a hearty meal that doesn't need a lot of meat...just a little bit.  I hope that you try this, and will love it as much as I did. This recipe is my second favorite way to prepare cauliflower, next to my "Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower and Pink Sauce" (from, where else, Cook's Illustrated).

Please scroll down to the very end of the post for the printable recipe card.

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Joanne said...

I'd happily eat this (minus the bacon)! Definitely my kind of pasta. Love that breadcrumb crunch.

Gerlinde ( sunnycovechef ) said...

I'm Iin Germany taking care of my mom and I can make this dish here using Speck instead of beacon. Cooks Illustrated is always a good source for recipes.

Cheryl Dunkin said...

Man I wish I had seen this last week, I let a head go bad.

Unknown said...

I'm dying to try this recipe and the Baked Rigatoni recipe you provide a link for (from Fine Cooking, not Cooks Illustrated as you mentioned above).

Debby Foodiewife said...

I always have a printable recipe card at the end of each post. Did you scroll all the way down? Otherwise, please email me at