I made this luscious cauliflower sauce with blue cheese and gianciale, not bacon. I figured most of you out here would use bacon, but both work just as well. The cauliflower part of the sauce is quite revolutionary and a real game changer. You really HAVE to check this out.
I first saw the idea on Pinch of Yum a while ago and sent the link to a foodie friend whose response was – ‘I make something like that all the time’. Just wow, and why wasn’t I kept in that loop?
I love making a pasta sauce from ingredients other than the ubiquitous tomato or cream, and in my cookbook one of my favourite pasta recipes is made from a sauce of roasted butternut, Mascarpone cheese and thyme, with mushrooms and crispy bacon. Just delicious, so I’m totally in the zone when it comes to this.
I have also known for a while that cauliflower has hidden powers and can easily masquerade as a carb. I regularly turn it into a ‘cous cous’ which compliments a plethora of dishes from vegetarian to meat. What I didn’t know is that it could be transformed into something quite as creamy and silky as a sauce without any actual cream.
I started out making my version of the sauce adding bay leaves and a pinch of nutmeg, and then after pureeing it, I added blue cheese and fried chopped up gianciale to complete the dish. Staggeringly tasty.
I also cooked it in skim milk not water which I think adds to the overall unctuousness of the sauce.
As for gianciale, it’s the classic ingredient in pasta Carbonara and the best, or only place you can buy the real deal in South Africa is from Richard Bosman.
Gianciale – pronounced gwun-chu-lay (and if you try saying it out loud you really should muster up an Italian accent to do so), is unsmoked Italian bacon made from the pig’s cheek. The cheek is rubbed with salt, spices and herbs and cured for a number of weeks. It has a stronger flavour than bacon and to prepare it, you slice it away from the fat and pan fry – with some of the fat, until crispy. Doesn’t this just sound like to heaven to you?
Richard Bosman hosted a lunch recently at Scusi in Newlands and we were treated to a tasting menu of several dishes prepared by Italian chef Andrea Volpe, with gianciale as a key ingredient. What a treat. You can read all about this fabulous lunch on my friend Michael Olivier’s site, where he also finds out what makes Richard tick.
*cooks notes ~ I sliced the stem of the cauliflower and used this in the sauce too as there is no need to waste. Use as much or as little bacon / gianciale as you like – preferably with a little fat in the mix, so streaky bacon if you are using that, and I recommend a creamy blue cheese, like a Gorgonzola. I have made the sauce with garlic and without, and it really is equally as nice. The nutmeg and bay leaves are also totally optional. I prefer to use freshly ground white pepper to black, as I find the more mellow flavour better suited to this sauce, and I love to add just a small pinch of chilli.
Recipe | serves 2 (big portions)
- 300g papparedelle, or any long noodle pasta of your choice
- 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 580 – 650g)
- 500ml milk (I used skim)
- 1 – 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- 30g blue cheese (or however much you like)
- 1/4 cup of gianciale, thinly sliced (about 1 cheek)
- salt and white pepper
Bring the milk to boil in a medium pot and and add the garlic, nutmeg, bay leaves and cauliflower. Cook until the cauliflower is soft – about 20 – 35 minutes. You really want to almost ‘over cook’ it.
While the cauliflower is cooking, cook your pasta until its al dente and fry your bacon / gianciale. Melt some of the fatty bits of the bacon and then fry the bacon bits until crispy. Drain and set aside.
When done, remove the bay leaves and process with a hand blender until its smooth and creamy. I found these ratios delivered the perfect thickness of sauce, but you could add more or less of the cooking liquid to thin down or thicken your sauce. Put the pureed sauce back on the heat and crumble in the blue cheese, allowing this to melt in. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
Toss the sauce through the pasta and mix in the crispy bacon.
Absolutely fabulous paired with a nice Chardonnay.
Here are a few of my other favourite recipes with cauliflower, and yes, I am very much in love with this humble cruciferous vegetable.:
I look forward to connecting with you again in the future.
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