Penne Pasta With Cauliflower and Pancetta

Roasted cauliflower becomes sweet as it caramelizes in olive oil with pancetta and penne pasta.


  • 3 slices sourdough bread cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 6 ounces deli sliced pancetta
  • 1 head cauliflower stalks removed and florets cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Toss the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Toast in the oven until the bread is golden and let cool. Crumble the croutons into small pieces by pouring into a gallon bag and crushing with the bottom of a heavy bottomed pan or a rolling pin.
  2. Boil the penne pasta in salted water according to package directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a dutch oven or large, high-sided skilled and cook the pancetta slices until cooked through. Transfer to a plate topped with paper towels and drain.
  4. Heat 1/8 cup of the olive oil in a large dutch oven or high sided fry pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the cauliflower and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half of the garlic and cook for 30 seconds and season with kosher salt and transfer to a bowl. Repeat the process with the remaining cauliflower and garlic and add to the reserved cauliflower to the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the chili flakes and stir to coat. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the penne to the skillet along with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, Parmesan cheese, crushed bread crumbs and cooked pancetta and cook together for 1-2 more minutes. Season with additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with Italian parsley and serve.