Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Penne with Cauliflower and Bacon

Sorry everyone.  I know I have been a little delinquent.  Again.  But in my defense, last week was a very busy week at work (although we did find time to cook a few meals that I am finally getting around to posting now).  So I'm hoping to get three posts up today - this pasta, some skirt steak tacos, and a yummy quinoa, spinach and mushroom dish.  If you have the time, stay tuned for more posts!

I'm posting this pasta recipe first because I think of the dishes we have made in the few weeks, this one made me the happiest.  It was a combination of items in our fridge/pantry - leftover homemade Italian-Style Bread Crumbs, pasta, bacon, parsley and cauliflower.  And have I mentioned that I have been obsessed with cauliflower lately?  No?  Well I totally am.  It's delicious.  And I am equally obsessed with those Italian-Style Bread Crumbs.  They are fairly easy to make and make such a difference in your cooking.  Anyway, this pasta was quite tasty and easy to put together, which made me very happy.  We just threw together a bunch of ingredients in the fridge/pantry and voila!  The combination of flavors really worked together nicely.  In each bite you got a little heat from the red pepper flakes, some salty bite from the cheese and the bacon, the wonderful porky flavor of the bacon, and a punch of flavor and texture from the bread crumbs.  Yum.  It was a fantastically hearty, yet delicious dish, one that I will definitely make again in the future. 

Recipes after the jump!

Penne with Caulflower and Bacon

3/4 lb dried penne pasta
4 slices bacon, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, thicker stems removed

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
14 cup Italian-Style Bread Crumbs, plus additional for serving (see recipe below)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over moderately high heat 4-5 minutes until the fat renders, and bacon is crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, cauliflower, garlic and shallot. Cook, stirring only very occasionally, until the cauliflower is caramelized and golden, about 7-8 minutes.  Season to taste with s&p (but don't salt the cauliflower too much because the bacon, cheese and the bread crumbs are all fairly salty).

In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a cup of pasta water. Drain and add pasta to the skillet, along with 1 tbsp evoo and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossing to combine. Add pasta water as needed to achieve a rich, slightly creamy consistency.  Add 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs and flat leaf parsley.  Toss to combine.

Serve pasta topped with additional grated cheese and bread crumbs.

Italian-Style Bread Crumbs

The Young Man & the Sea: Recipes & Crispy Fish Tales from Esca
By Dave Pasternack & Ed Levine

1 loaf Italian bread
1 1/2 tbsp evoo
1 tsp garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp finely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Tear bread into roughly 2-inch chunks. Place on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread is dry and crunchy, about 15 minutes. Put the chunks in a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of the evoo in a small saute pan. Add the garlic and stir until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the bread crumbs, parsley, and the remaining 1/2 tbsp evoo. Stir well. Season with s&p and remove from the heat.

Bread crumbs can be stored in a covered container until ready to use.

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