Friday, 13 September 2013

Wholesome Food - Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta in a Tomato Sauce

August/September time is when the tomatoes start ripening in my area.  In previous years the weather has been pretty terrible and I haven't ever really had enough ripen at once to do anything really proper with them... other than just eat them as is, of course. 

This year has been an amazing summer.  Hands down the best one since I've been in Scotland, which is 7 (!!) years.  The tomatoes, and the garden in general, have responded happily.

So, this leaves me needing to use up tomatoes at every possible occasion (poor me, right?), and the result has been pretty cool.  I'm either making up dishes or turning to the delights of Google to give me inspiration.  We have eaten very well these past few weeks, and last night was no exception.

In this weekend's shop, I grabbed a cauliflower.  My husband asked why and I told him I'd figure it out later.  I'm so glad I did. 

Yesterday I googled "tomato and cauliflower" and found a few really amazing sounding recipe ideas.  I decided on the Kitchn's Pan-Roasted Cauliflower & Pasta with Tomato-Cream Sauce, with a few modifications.

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower 
Pasta - I used about 4 handfuls of whole wheat fusili
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes - 6 large or more if they're small - or if you can't be bothered, just make it two tins of chopped tomatoes
4 pieces of smoked back bacon - this is UK bacon and it's bigger than bacon in the US.  If you're using streaky/US bacon, I'd probably use 6 pieces.
1 medium/large onion - I used yellow
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
Fresh basil, to serve

My primary modification to the Kitchn's recipe was the fact that I used fresh, home-grown tomatoes in place of one of the tins of tomatoes. 

I grabbed my ripest tomatoes, tossed them in olive oil, and stuck them on a baking sheet in the (fan assisted) oven at about 150C until the skins split and started to go brown, about 30 minutes.
Once they cooled a bit, I removed the skins and piled them into my mini-blender, before blitzing them smooth.  If you decide to just use two tins of chopped tomatoes, I would still blitz one of them.  It makes the sauce a bit creamier.

Here's another modification - I used bacon instead of pancetta.  I just wanted to use what I had in the house and I pretty much always have bacon in the house.  Pancetta, not so much.

While the tomatoes are roasting, crisp up the bacon in the pan where you're going to assemble everything (this is important).  I needed to add in a little olive oil to get it started, and set it aside once it was ready.

While the bacon's crisping, chop up your cauliflower into smallish bite-sized pieces. 

Here's where it gets amazing/bad - once the bacon is done, whack up the heat on your pan and toss in the cauliflower (be careful of sparking oil when you do this).  You're going to cook your cauliflower in the bacon fat.  Ooh yeah.  Now I should remind you that I'm in the UK so there isn't a HUGE amount of bacon grease in the pan.  It's just a bit more oil then I would use if I was only using olive oil.  Just include however much grease you want to, and if you want to be super healthy, roast the cauliflower in the oven instead.

Leave the cauliflower undisturbed for about a minute, until the bottoms start to brown up.  Stir, and leave again.  Keep doing this for about 5 minutes - I like my veggies pretty firm, so if you prefer yours soft, then cook for about 8-10 minutes.  

The smell of roasting cauliflower is amazing - almost nutty.  Don't write off cauliflower until you've had it roasted, it is NOTHING like steamed.  Seriously.

bacon-cauliflower goodness
Once the cauliflower's done, set it aside to chill out for a minute.

Finally, dice up your onion and put it in the same pan everything's cooked in, with a glug of olive oil if the pan's dry.  Cook until translucent, then add in your pureed roast tomatoes, your tin of tomatoes, your garlic and chilli flakes.  Let these all bubble away and reduce a bit together for a couple of minutes, before you finally get your pasta cooking.   

Shortly before the pasta's ready, tear up your bacon into the sauce, and add in the cauliflower.  Salt if necessary.  Finally add in your cooked pasta and stir to combine. 

Serve topped with cheese and basil.


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