CLASSIC pasta orecchiette cauliflower, onions, pancetta and pecorino








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Orecchiette (little ears) are the basic pasta dish of the Puglia region. And orchiette with some form of broccoli is their most famous dish. Second to broccoli, however, is cauliflower.

Here is a variation, adapted from a recipe in Janet Fletcher's "Four Season's Pasta" (see Library). For a little more taste variety, she adds onion and pancetta, and finishes with pecorino.

You can buy or make your own orecchiette. For home-made: see how to make your own egg pasta. Rather than all all-purpose flour, use half white flour and half wheat flour or semolina. When you have come to the step of having a ball of well-kneaded dough, divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each of the pieces into a sausage shape, about a half-inch in diameter. Just slice this sausage into one-quarter to one-half inch slices. You now have a lot of little round buttons, or coins. Press your thumb gently into the center of each of these little coins. Wiggle your thumb a little to get a really good impression into the coin.

>>for a similar pasta combination, see orchiette con rapa.

for the sauce:

  • one cauliflower (about two pounds)
  • eight tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • one yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • one-quarter pound pancetta, finely chopped
  • six cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • one-quarter cup fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
  • one-half cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

for the pasta:

  • one pound Italian-made orecchiette, preferably made with semolina

Prepare the cauliflower. Separate the florets from the stem, keeping them intact as much as possible. Heat a large pot of boiling water (four to five quarts). Add a tablespoon of salt. Add the cauliflower florets and cook, uncovered, until they are tender. About eight minutes.

When done, lift the florets out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Set them aside to cool. Then chop them into small pieces. Keep the boiling water; it will be used for the pasta.

In a sauté pan, add five tablespoons of oil and then the garlic over a moderate heat. After thirty seconds add the onion and pancetta. Cook until the onion is soft, about six minutes, adding the parsley at about the four minute mark.

Now add the chopped cauliflower to the sauté pan, plus a healthy teaspoon of salt, some freshly ground pepper, and cook under a reduced heat for five minutes.

Back to the boiling water. Add the orecchiette and cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve a cup of the liquid and then drain.

Add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan, over a medium heat. Stir. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix thoroughly. If too dry add water from the reserved liquid. Add the pecorino and mix. Taste for salt and pepper and serve, hot, right away.


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