I loved that this cheesy comfort food baked pasta dish incorporated an entire head of cauliflower. The lemon zest and capers also added brightness which had a nice balance with the cheese.
The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Ina Garten. Great comfort food.
Yield: Serves 8
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound dried pasta, such as medium shells (I used Cascatelli)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 pounds cauliflower (1 large head cut into small florets)
- 3 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 15 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups Fontina cheese, lightly packed (10 oz with rind)
- 1 cup (8 oz) whole milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup panko
- 6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
- 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, minced fresh
- Preheat the oven to 400°. (I set my oven to convection.)
- Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes less than al dente, according to the instructions on the package. (Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.)
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 to 14-inch) skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Season with salt.
- Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta.
- Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender and add to the bowl.
- Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully.
- Stir in the Fontina.
- Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2–inch rectangular baking dish.
- Spoon 12 rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. (I used a cookie scoop.)
- Combine the panko, grated Pecorino, minced parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top.
- Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.
Note: The dish can be assembled ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake before serving.