by Michelle Hamby
Event Team and Reluctant Chef
I consider cooking a Necessary Evil. If I’m the one making a meal, it’s probably going to be hamburgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, and maybe, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add tater tots. My husband, on the other hand, is an excellent cook and actually likes doing it. He even teaches cooking at a local university . Our children, and pretty much anyone who eats at our house, are very grateful I did such a good job picking a husband.
Early in our marriage, my husband made a pasta dish for me that I absolutely LOVE. Unfortunately, I got pregnant six months after we got married. That came out wrong. Actually, I was thrilled to be pregnant. It was only unfortunate that becoming pregnant nearly ruined this dish for me. As most people who have been pregnant (or had to deal with someone who was pregnant) can confirm, pregnancy plays havoc with your eating habits. I have been pregnant three times, and I can tell you that I ate more corndogs in those 27 months than I have in the entire rest of my life. On the other hand, I used to love V8 juice, but in the twenty years since I became pregnant with our daughter, not a drop of the stuff has passed my lips.
This dish was banned in our house
The pasta dish my husband made for me has two main ingredients: bacon and cauliflower. Now, the smell of cooking bacon is one of my love languages, but the smell of cooking cauliflower is like Hell just burped in your face. I could tell from the very beginning of my first pregnancy that if I were to smell this dish being made, I would never be able to eat it again, so I banned it from the house. Each time I became pregnant, the ban was reinstated, which is how this dish has remained my absolute favorite.
You don’t get more authentic than this dish. My husband learned it from a little old lady in Favara, a tiny town just south of Agrigento, when he lived in Sicily. The way he tells the story, the first time she made it for him, he ate “an embarrassing amount.” Afterwards, he begged her to teach him how to make it. Over the years, he modified the recipe slightly. It’s much harder to find good quality pancetta in America than it is in Italy, so he substitutes bacon in its place. The smoky flavor of the bacon complements this dish very well. Just be sure to find good, thick-cut bacon, and cut off the end parts that are just fat.
CAULIFLOWER BACON PENNE
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 1 large head cauliflower, broken into 2-inch florets
- 1 lb thick cut bacon, with the fatty ends trimmed off, cut into 1-inch squares
- 1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put in the cauliflower florets to cook.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Drain most of the fat.
- When the cauliflower florets are cooked, but not yet soft (around 10 minutes depending on your preference), remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and put them in the hot skillet with the bacon.
- Fry the cauliflower with the bacon until it is lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, put the penne to cook in the still boiling water that the cauliflower was in.
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it in a colander. Do not rinse it.
- Put the pasta back into the pot that the water was in, and pour the bacon cauliflower mixture over the pasta. Stir gently until well mixed.
- Add in the parmesan cheese, and stir gently until well mixed.
- Salt to taste and serve while still hot.