Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lemony Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Pancetta and Crème Fraîche

Any culture has its idiosyncrasies and Italy can be an interesting place to live and observe these quirks. I've never seen a city of people resist Spring to the extent that the Romans do. We've had a few days of bright sun with temperatures in the high 60's (near 19 celsius) and most people on the streets have yet to unburden themselves of their heavy scarves and hats or shed their down jackets.

I grew up in New England, and no matter what the thermostat said in March, I remember putting on last year's short sleeves and running outside to watch the last of the snow melt. Maybe I thought my behavior would encourage Spring to finally arrive. So here in Rome, where we've hardly had a winter by any measure, you'd better believe that I am not putting a jacket back on no matter what.

I buy things that smile at me when food shopping and that's exactly how this dish started. Two gorgeous heads of purple cauliflower, a bag of mezze maniche (literally "half sleeve") pasta that I bought for the name alone, and a walk home to ponder flavors that would pair well.

To welcome Spring, a bowl of short sleeve pasta seemed appropriate.

Lemony Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Pancetta and Crème Fraîche
As it turns out, those beautiful heads of cauliflower lost their luster once roasted, kind of like a top model without make up and styling. So feel free to use whatever cauliflower you can find. Paired with some salty but sweet pancetta, crème fraîche and the refreshing zest of lemon, this simple dish made for a nice lunch and goodbye to another winter. Short sleeves optional.

For two

1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower
3 ounces (100 grams) cubed pancetta
4 large spoonfuls crème fraîche
zest of one lemon
1/2 bag of pasta
parmesan optional

Cut the cauliflower into florets and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 400 fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.

Cook your pasta al dente.

In a sauce pan, drizzle a little olive oil and fry the pancetta until it begins to brown. Drain out some of the fat onto a paper towel. Turn off the heat and stir in about 4 good soup spoons of crème fraîche and stir to melt. Add the zest of one lemon and toss in the cooked pasta to coat. Serve with freshly ground pepper and some parmesan if you like.


  1. I love cauliflower pasta! It is disappointing the way the color fades on the pretty varieties of cauliflower, though - I'm partial to the orange ones.

    By the way, I happened to make tortillas this week, so I posted my recipe - I know what it's like to live abroad without things that I consider staples, so I hope they turn out well for you. My husband and I have always had a half-baked idea of moving to France or Italy and opening a Mexican restaurant, as it seems like the kind of food that many Europeans would love - you should make some tacos for your friends and tell me what they think!

  2. Buying things that smile at you - love that - from your mom, right? It's an expression we still use around our house.

  3. Nicole, Romans do like Athenians do it seems. The same thing happens in Athens when nobody sheds their jacket before the sun hits them hard. I, on the other hand, a Greek living in Holland, am taking my cue from the Dutch and whenever the sun peeps through the dark skies, I wear my t-shirts and hit the streets.

    That pasta dish looks really amazing. Pasta doesn't always photograph well but you've done a wonderful job capturing its deliciousness. Seriously, I would go for a bowlful of that pasta, pronto.

  4. @Loupbleu- Yes that is from my mom. It's a pretty wonderful way to shop.

    @Magda, Nice to hear from you! Well, it must be a Mediterranean thing. I'm proudly sporting my Spring clothing and I get hot just looking at the Romans in their winter garb.

  5. gorgeous cauliflower- i;ve only ever seen photos of it but am dying to try it! you're such a talented photographer (and food stylist!) xo m.

  6. Nicole:
    I have lived in the US 12 years, but I still keep my coat on until its really really hot :)
    This recipe sounds wodnerful, creamy, comforting, rich but also delicisouly full of roasted vegetable flavor. I will need to make it!


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