Orecchiette with Cauliflower

Serves 6

This scales well for two. Use half a head of cauliflower and save the rest. Works well with anchovies, prosciutto, or any salty meat. The pistachios are optional in the original recipe, but we find the pine nuts essential.

½ cup unsalted pistachios or toasted pine nuts

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

¼ lb butter, cut into small pieces

5 oil packed anchovies, drained and minced, or 3 oz prosciutto, chopped

1½ cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth

½ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1 tsp crushed red pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 oz orechiete or similar small-shape pasta, prepared al dente

  1. Place nuts in a flat pan and bake at 350 degrees F. (a toaster oven is good for this) until lightly browned. Cool and chop coarsely. If using pine nuts, toast them in the cooking pan before starting. Do no chop.
  2. In a medium saucepan or high-sided frying pan, cook the butter until lightly browned (if using prosciutto, cook it with the butter) about 4 minutes at medium heat.
  3. Add cauliflower, increase heat to medium high, and cook until cauliflower is golden.
  4. Add about 2/3, or 1 cup, of the stock (and anchovies, if you are using them)
  5. and cook about 3 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Leave the pan uncovered so the liquid reduces.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions, checking for al dente condition.

  1. We find that, if you start cooking the cauliflower sauce about 5 minutes after turning on the pasta water, it comes out about right.
  2. When pasta is done, drain and place in a bowl. In a microwave or in the empty pasta pot, bring the rest of the stock to a boil. Add the cauliflower mixture to the pasta. Then, add the hot stock, the cheese, parsley and pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir again.
  3. Add the pistachios (if any are left) and serve.

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