Pasta with Sauce - Cauliflower
Last week, I made a fancier version of pasta with tomato sauce (I added onion, peppers, mushrooms, and ground beef). Since I cooked the whole box of pasta, I ended up with half a box of cooked pasta leftover. From that grocery trip, I also had 1/2 onion, 1 head of cauliflower, and 1 container of pre-cut, peeled butternut squash. From my fridge, I usually keep butter and freeze-dried garlic. From this inventory, I decided that roasting butternut squash and making a cauliflower pasta sauce would be the best way to use up all of these ingredients.
I also found a leftover packet with a few slices of bacon in my fridge. I'm not super fond of plain bacon - the flavor is too salty, fatty, and intense for my taste. However, I do like rendering the fat from bacon to use for cooking other dishes and garnishing meals with a few crispy bacon pieces. In my opinion, the bacon is the least important ingredient. If you're vegetarian, leave out the bacon, and use 1 tablespoon of oil for the cooking fat.
Warning: you will need a blender, either an immersion blender of a standing-up blender, if you want a creamy cauliflower sauce. Because I like to blend a lot of cauliflower, I recently bought this immersion blender as recommended by this SeriousEats guide. It's terrifying, very fun, and easier to clean than a big blender.
- 1 container (20 ounces) of pre-cut, peeled butternut squash
- ~1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt
- pinch of cumin, chipotle pepper (optional)
- 3 slices of bacon
- ½ onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 cup of water
- pinch of nutmeg, cayenne, thyme (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
- ½ box (1 pound) of cooked pasta for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. This will be for roasting the butternut squash.
- Prep for roasted butternut squash and cauliflower sauce is asynchronous. That means you can multi-task and prep for cauliflower sauce as the oven preheats.
- After the oven is done preheating, roast the butternut squash. Line a large 9x13 baking sheet with aluminum foil - this is for easy clean-up. Add the butternut squash. Mix with oil and spices. Put in oven until very soft, about 30 minutes.
- As the oven preheats, cut stuff for the cauliflower sauce: dice onion and cauliflower, slice bacon.
- Put a large, fairly deep pan on the stovetop over medium-heat. Add the sliced bacon. Cook until crispy-looking. Remove cooked bacon, but leave bacon grease in pan.
- Add onion and garlic to the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower to the pan. Salt liberally - cauliflower is a lot of food.
- Add water to the pan. Cover pan, and simmer until cauliflower is very soft and tender, about 20 minutes.
- Taste sauce, and add optional spices and butter.
- Blend the cauliflower sauce. If you have an immersion blender, transfer the sauce into a tall, deep container, and use that. If you have a regular blender, carefully blend the sauce in batches - hot liquid can expand and burn you. If you have neither, cauliflower stew is still yummy.
- Serve food. There's 6 servings total. Leftovers keep well for a week.
- Vegetarian? Leave out the bacon, and use 1 tablespoon of oil for the cooking fat.
- Serving suggestions: While I prefer pasta with tomato sauce with cheese, I prefer pasta with cauliflower sauce without cheese since the pureed cauliflower sauce is already creamy and rich. Fresh green herbs or freshly ground black pepper would be pretty and tasty.
General cooking tip: Salt and fat make food tasty.
- Salt as you go. I said this in the recipes notes for pasta with tomato sauce, and I'll say it again. When you cook pasta, aggressively salt the pasta cooking water. I didn't have to cook pasta because I had half a box of cooked pasta in the fridge already. Salt the cauliflower sauce at every step. A head of cauliflower is a lot of food, so it can take a lot of salt.
- Cauliflower sauce is good with butter. Just blended cauliflower, salt, and butter make a tasty and simple cauliflower sauce/soup. In this recipe, bacon grease already adds fat and flavor to the cauliflower sauce, but a bit more butter doesn't hurt.
General cooking tip: A well-stocked spice pantry is not actually that important. I happen to have a well-stocked spice pantry, and I know exactly what spices go well together, so I like to be fancy and add them. However, if you don't have these spices (cumin, chipotle pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, thyme), there's no need to go out of your way to buy them for this recipe. The most important seasoning in this recipe is the most important seasoning: salt.
I don't calculate nutrition facts for meals. I used to have orthorexia, and I oppose unnecessary tracking of calorie counts. My rule of thumb is I eat ~2 cups (visually, about 2 fistfuls) at meals.
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