Baked Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Fontina

This dish was super cheesy, rich, and delicious. It smelled absolutely wonderful as it baked- the rosemary really added a special layer of seasoning.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Dario Barbone and Renato Sardo, a “staff-favorite” recipe. I incorporated my special CSA cauliflower, and substituted orecchiette pasta for large shells and fontina for taleggio cheese. I also modified the cooking method. We ate it with a green salad dressed with mustard vinaigrette.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch florets
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (leaves from 1 sprig)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 pound fontina or taleggio cheese—rind discarded, cheese cubed
  • 1 pound orecchiette or large shells (such as conchiglioni)
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the cauliflower until tender, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the cauliflower to a colander and let cool slightly. Drain and pat dry; keep the cooking water hot.
  3. Finely chop the garlic, onion and rosemary in a food processor.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil.
  5. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the cauliflower and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 8 minutes.
  7. Add the wine and boil until evaporated.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cream, 1 cup of the Parmigiano and the fontina/taleggio.
  9. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  10. Scrape the cauliflower and cheese sauce into the pasta and toss well.
  11. Spread half of the pasta into a 3-quart baking dish and top with 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs.
  12. Top with the remaining pasta, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of Parmigiano.
  13. Bake the pasta for about 17 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden and crisp. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
MAKE AHEAD: The unbaked assembled pasta dish can be refrigerated overnight. Return the pasta to room temperature before baking.

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