California Central Coast Recipes
Golden Cauliflower with Pancetta and Penne
When cool Winter season is here, and the kohl crops are abundant, we see some beautiful types of Cauliflower in the local food markets. Most of the crop comes right from Salinas, practically in our backyard, so the vegetables are fresh and the quality is always excellent. One especially pretty type, a deep gold almost orange color caught our eye recently. We just knew we had to do something with it!
Kohl vegetables like cauliflower are rather delicate in taste, and really do not stand up well to some of the rather rough treatment Italian recipes give to its closest cousin, broccoli. The classic Southern Italian treatment of broccoli starts with a duo of garlic and anchovy. This would absolutely overwhelm the cauliflower. So we looked North for our inspiration for the dish and settled on a simple Mornay, or white-cheese sauce treatment.
Cauliflower is still rather bland, so for a little extra texture and taste, instead of butter for the roux portion of the sauce, we decided to use pancetta instead. The pancetta adds a very nice complementary rustic-ness to the sauce in both taste and texture. One little additional trick is to use Wondra flour in the roux instead of regular all purpose flour. It serves as the thickening agent like flour, but it mixes very quickly and is less prone to lumpiness.
The recipe turned out to be very easy to make, and very tasty - check it out for yourself!
Preparation time: 15 minutesCooking time: 20 minutes
1 Medium Cauliflower head , preferably Golden
4 ounces Pancetta , diced in 1/8th cubes
2 cups Milk
3 Tablespoons Wondra Flour
2 ounces Parmesan Reggiano , grated
1 pound Penne
1 Rinse off the cauliflower head, and cut it into florets.
2 Heat the water in the pot to a boil you are going to cook the pasta in. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 5 minutes or until done to desired tenderness.
3 Remove the cauliflower and place aside. Reserve the water for the pasta.
4 In a sauce pan over low, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling.
5 Place the pancetta In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, and while scraping the bottom frequently, sautee the pancetta over medium heat until brown and crispy.
6 Add the flour to the pan with the pancetta and continue to cook for a few minutes more over medium low heat until the flour has absorbed all the pancetta drippings.
7 With the pan still on medium low heat, whisk in about 1/4 of the hot milk, enough to made a paste with the flour. Keep stirring to remove all lumps, and scraping the bottom of the pan.
8 Add the rest of the milk while stirring until the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook over medium low heat until the mixtures thickens. When thickened, add the grated cheese and stir well until the cheese has completely melted into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.
9 Meanwhile, add the penne to the pasta water and cook according to directions or until al-dente. When done, drain well, add to the sauce and mix well.
10 Add in the cauliflower florets and stir carefully to coat the floret well, but not break them up.
11 Serve immediately with a little extra grated Parmesan cheese on the side.
This recipe is a variant of a classic white sauce, but it is not particularly rich like a butter based sauce so high acidity is not needed. A simple white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or even a dry Riesling will work very well.
A Chardonnay is more daring choice, but be careful that the wine is not to herbaceous, this could intensify the kohl taste of the dish.