Can we talk about cauliflower for a second? It’s a great vegetable with a really unique flavor. I love it and, if you haven’t tried it lately, you really should give it a second chance. But there’s a right way to do cauliflower and a wrong way. The cauliflower “steaks” that food editors seem to have decided should be all the rage this winter? NOT the right way. In fact, it’s a pretty decent way to confirm any suspicion that you may have had that cauliflower is gross.

This pasta, on the other hand, with the some of the cauliflower caramelized in the oven and the rest pureed into a creamy sauce? Even if you think you hate cauliflower, you’ll love this.

This dish is based loosely on one that I had at OTTO when I was in New York City last September. If you ever find yourself in NYC looking for a great meal at a reasonable price, I highly recommend you check OTTO out. It was easily the best meal I had in 2011.  The house-cured charcuterie was amazing. The pizza, a perfectly thin, perfectly charred crust topped with anchovies, capers and chilis, was sublime. And the pasta with spicy cauliflower? There’s no way to describe it other than sexy. Don’t even get me started on dessert.

There was only one problem with the pasta: After a few transcendent bites, it started to get … boring. There was no variation in texture, no acidity to cut through the rich sauce. It was fork full after fork full of the same of the same delicious bit, and I thought it needed something more. Something to jar your senses and bring you back down to earth.

It took me a few attempts to get this recipe exactly the way I wanted it, but it was worth every last attempt. I added roasted cauliflower and peas for texture, prosciutto for richness, and a smattering of sun dried tomatoes to give it a little bite. The sauce isn’t quite as smooth and luxurious as Batali’s (I suspect his uses heaps of butter and cream), but the flavor and texture is wonderful. It sure is a pretty darn good way to eat cauliflower.

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Fettuccine with Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

Serves 8.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

In this dish, based off of one I ate at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo, cauliflower is pureed into a smooth sauce that coats wide, flat pasta. Prosciutto, Peas, and sun dried tomatoes turn it into a meal.

While you can use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil in this recipe, they will add unnecessary fat. I like to buy tomatoes that are dry packed in a cellophane bag. To rehydrate them, steep in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 large (6″-7″ diameter) Cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Skim Milk
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 3 ounces Pecorino-Romano, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • 1/8 pound Prosciutto
  • 10 Sun-Dried Tomatoes (not packed in oil), rehydrated and chopped
  • 1 pound Fettuccine or other wide, flat pasta, cooked
  • Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place 1/4 of the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, add the remaining cauliflower to a large pot of water set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain the cauliflower and return it to the pot. Turn the burner to medium.
  3. Add the milk, chicken stock, and cheese to the pot. Use a handheld mixer or immersion blender to process the cauliflower into a smooth puree. Whisk in the flour and bring the sauce to a gentle boil to help it thicken.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, peas, prosciutto, and roasted cauliflower. Combine sauce and fettuccine in a large serving bowl, tossing gently to coat all of the pasta. Season with black pepper.

Calories 241. Total Fat 5.9 grams. Saturated Fat 2.9 grams. Carbohydrates 34.3 grams. Fiber 6.6 grams. Protein 14.4 grams.
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I’m entering the main photo from this post into a contest sponsored by Feastie for a scholarship to attend this year’s Eat, Write, Retreat conference. I went last year and it was a great time – I’d really love the opportunity to attend this year as well.