This is a new twist on an old favorite: linguine with cauliflower and bacon. In the fall, I wrote a post about pasta with cauliflower, green olives, and almonds. It was a lovely dish, with a perfect balance of savory flavors and textures. This recipe is similar: pasta with beautifully caramelized cauliflower, swathed in garlic and hot pepper flakes. However, instead of saltiness from green olives, and crunch from toasted almonds, bacon takes over, boasting both salt and crunch.
I will not try to be coy about it: this is not a low fat dish. I started this by rendering chopped bacon in a pan. When it was crisp, I set it aside, and proceeded to cook the cauliflower in some of the remaining bacon grease. However, the cauliflower wasn’t caramelizing to my specifications, so I proceeded to add some butter to the pan. Later, while tossing the pasta with the cauliflower, it seemed dry, and I added a drizzle of olive oil. And, of course, the pasta is finished with the crispy bacon and feathery ribbons of parmesan. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this was absolutely delicious. When I concocted this idea in my food-obsessed brain, I was most excited about the flavor the bacon grease would impart upon the cauliflower. However, this did not fully live up to my expectations. I made it a second time a week later, and cooked the cauliflower in olive oil, thus saving my arteries from unnecessary saturated fats, and difference was minimal. Nonetheless, there is no substitute for the crispy bacon garnish. Despite all the olive oil, and butter, (and potentially, bacon grease), if you follow the measurements below, this dish is loaded with cauliflower. Cauliflower, in turn, is loaded with vitamin C and fiber, thus negating some concerns you may have regarding the bacon. Personally, I think those crispy, salty, meaty morsels are worth their weight in gold.
Linguine with Cauliflower and Bacon (makes 2 large servings)
1/3 pound bacon, chopped
1 ½ pounds cauliflower, chopped
1/3-1/2 pound pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ hot pepper flakes
¼ cup parsley, chopped
½ tablespoon butter (optional)
2 tablespoons of water
· Preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and until browned and crisp.
· Remove crisped bacon from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Set aside (and try not to eat too much of it).
· For the high fate version: using paper towels, carefully mop up all but 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease. For the lower fate version, wipe up all of the bacon grease and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.
· Increase the heat to medium high, and add the cauliflower. Stir to even goat with the olive oil or bacon grease. Allow to cook, for about 20 minutes total. Stir every 5-7 minutes, leaving it undisturbed when possible so it will caramelize. If it isn’t browning well, add about ½ tablespoon of butter (it has a lower smoke point than olive oil/bacon grease, thus it assists with browning).
· In the last 5 or so minutes of cooking, add minced garlic, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
· Meanwhile, cook linguine in a pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain linguine when it’s ready, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Or you can use tongs and pull the linguine directly from the pot and add to the pan of cauliflower.
· Toss the linguine with the cauliflower and parsley. Add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water and/or a drizzle of olive oil if the pasta is dry.
· Plate pasta and garnish with reserved bacon and parmesan cheese.