Cauliflower, Pancetta Whole-Wheat Linguine

When the first, sweet cauliflower of the season appears at our Farmer’s Market, I look forward to making this slightly spicy pasta. I really like whole-wheat pasta with vegetable sauces, especially with the crunchy breadcrumb topping. Very rustic but really yummy!

Makes 4 Servings (Main Course)

1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices country style bread)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. EVO
1 large cauliflower (2 ½ lbs.), divided & cut into 1” wide florets (8 cups)
¼ lb. sliced pancetta, cut into ¼” dice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ tsp. pepperoncino (red pepper flakes)
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
¾ lb. dried whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti (di Grano is a good brand)
½ oz. finely grated Parmigian-Reggiano + extra for serving
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

In a small bowl stir together the breadcrumbs, salt & 1 Tbsp. EVO until well combined. Transfer to a 12” heavy skillet & cook over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp & golden, 3 – 5 minutes, then transfer back to the bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a large serving bowl in a preheated 180 F oven.

Heat remaining ¼ cup EVO in skillet over medium heat. Sauté the pancetta until it is cooked halfway. Remove & set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high, then sauté the cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan & sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, add the garlic, red pepper flakes & sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth to the pan, reduce heat & simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender & sauce is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, add 1 Tbsp. salt to the large pot of water & cook the pasta al dente (still slightly firm), about 1 or 2 minutes before the specified cooking time. Remove ½ cup of pasta cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta in a colander.

Add the pasta to the pan with the cauliflower, along with the cheese & parsley & simmer, tossing for 1 minute; if pasta appears to be too dry, add a tablespoon or so of the reserved pasta cooking water. Season with salt if necessary; place the pasta into the heated serving bowl & sprinkle with the crumbs. Pass extra Parmigiano.

**If you would like to make whole-wheat crumbs, please go to Making Breadcrumbs.

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