Orecchiette with Basil Pesto, Cauliflower and Bacon

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Henry and I learned how to make this in a Sur La Table cooking class together and have made this at least 4 times now.  Love this stuff!

Orecchiette with Basil Pesto, Cauliflower and Bacon

Basil Pesto:

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 large bunches basil, stems removed about 2 ounces

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup lemon juice

salt and pepper


1 medium head cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds) cut into 1 inch florets thicker stems removed

8 ounces orecchiette pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound thick sliced bacon cut 1/4 inch slices

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


To prepare basil pesto:  In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, add the garlic, pine nuts and basil and pulse to a rough chop.  Add olive oil in a steady stream and process to a  paste.  Stop motor and add Parmesan cheese and lemon juice, stirring by hand to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lemon juice as needed. (I used a stick blender for this part)

To cook cauliflower:  Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  When boiling, add salt and cauliflower and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside.

To cook pasta:  Place the pasta into the same boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Reserve approximately a cup of the pasta water for use later to thin sauce, if needed.  Use a colander to drain the pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

To prepare pasta:  Place a large nonstick skillet on the stove over medium heat and add the oil.  When the oil is shimmering, add the bacon and cook until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the bacon with a  slotted spoon and set on paper towel-lined plate.  Add the cauliflower florets and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is caramelized and golden about 5 minutes.  Add the cooked pasta, pesto and bacon and toss until well combined, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce, if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve:  Divide the pasta between 4 pasta bowls.  If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.