March 08

Cauliflower, Bacon, and Sage Pasta

A combination of food I didn’t ever think I might possibly like is the combination of pasta and balsamic vinegar. The only time I ever use balsamic is to make the Asian cabbage and chicken salad. I keep a huge bottle of it in the cupboard, in the event I find another use for it (and yes, I know there’s hundreds of recipes that you can use it in). If you told me 5 or 6 years ago that something I’d crave on a regular basis is a cup of boiled noodles, lightly salted, heavily peppered, a hint of fresh grated cheese, and a load of balsamic, I’d tell you to hush up, because you’re full of lies. The sweet and tart of balsamic is something that pairs well with the chicken, the sesame, the sugar, the almonds… all the things the Asian cabbage and chicken salad includes, but being that I was so afraid of trying new flavors for the longest time, the very idea that a dish as plain as pasta could be divine with the stuff blew my mind.

When I found this recipe in my year long free trial of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, I ripped it out and set it aside to be used “at a later date”. I do this with all sorts of recipes. Ones I actually plan to make, ones that sound good, but I might not actually make, and ones that look pretty but I just cannot foresee it being a good end result. Whether that end result be The Fellow™ won’t eat it (say, something heavy with mushrooms), or because the ingredients are too expensive for my budget, or because it requires cookware I don’t own. This pasta, however, was definitely something I couldn’t stop thinking about. Pasta? Balsamic and white wine vinegars? Cauliflower and bacon? It was worth a shot.

What I ended up with in a dish was fantastic. A bit of sour and tart with a hint of sweet, a bit of a crunch from the bacon, and tender cauliflower that soaked up all the surrounding flavors. I took a bite and liked it a lot. I wasn’t sure The Fellow™ would approve. Every time I cook something, he eats it. Whether or not he will enjoy it is a completely different matter. I hoped for the best. Seeing him hoover every last bit off his plate reassured me that it was worthy enough for his stomach. Him going back for seconds was like silent praise for a job well done. I thrive on that feeling. You don’t have to say, “Oh wow, this is so great. This is the best I’ve ever tasted!” But asking for seconds or licking your plate clean or hoping to secure the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch… those are what make my ego soar.

Cauliflower, Bacon, Sage Pasta

Cauliflower, Bacon, Sage Pasta

source: [Gemelli with Cauliflower, Bacon, and Sage]


coarse sea salt and ground pepper
8 ounces gemelli or other short pasta
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup onions, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pasta water


1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add butter, onions, and garlic to skillet with bacon fat and cook until onions are softened. Be careful to not burn the garlic and onions.

3. Add cauliflower, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender, about 9-12 minutes. Stir in bacon and sage and cook until fragrant. Add cauliflower mixture to pot with pasta. Stir in vinegars and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper.