My mom gave me Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton for Christmas. It’s a fun food memoir, recording his adventures in eating with his daughter during her toddler and preschool years. It’s also full of tasty-sounding (and kid-friendly) recipes, most of which I probably won’t be trying for years and years. But one early-January night the siren call of cauliflower combined with the dismal weather and inspired me to make his baked pasta with cauliflower. It’s from the White Foods chapter, I think.
This is a really simple recipe, but a little heavy on the fatty ingredients. I also found that it wasn’t a great re-heater; it’s one of those cheesy dishes that gets pretty greasy when it’s heated back up. Next time I will make a half batch in an 8×8 pan instead of a full batch in the 9×13.
Baked Pasta with Cauliflower
From Hungry Monkey (He says it’s based on a recipe from the fabulous Cucina Simpatica, which is one of those cookbooks I’m always cooking things from and yet don’t own. Must remedy.)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded pecorino Romano or Pamesan
1/2 cup shredded low-moisture whole milk mozzarella
2 tablespoons ricotta (I asked at the cheese counter at Whole Foods and they gave me a bit of the bulk stuff that they repackage in back)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 ounces penne or farfalle
1 medium head cauliflower (~1.5 pounds), cut into small florets
4 tablespoons butter
I also added some red pepper flakes; the dish was still a tad bland.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Stir together the cream, cheeses, and salt in a large bowl.
(Ben did this part)
Boil the pasta and cauliflower together in salted water for four minutes, and drain.
Toss the drained pasta and cauliflower into the bowl with the cream and cheeses. Combine well. Transfer into a 9×13 baking dish and dot the butter over the top (also some cheese, if you’re me).
Bake 10-12 minutes (he actually recommends using 4 small dishes for individual servings; I used a big one and baked about 15 minutes, I think), or until some of the pasta is well-browned and crunchy. Serve immediately.
It was crucially important to serve a sharply-dressed (as in tangy, not natty) salad on the side, since the pasta was so creamy and rich.
I really did enjoy this, but I want to play around with the technique. I think I could reduce the amount of cream, maybe subbing in some whole milk? It’s essentially absorption pasta cooked in the oven with a brief par-boil to get it going. Adding sausage and kale would be terrific, too.