This recipe might best be called the “Calm before the Storm.” Thanksgiving is looming with its promise of feasts, indulgences and lots of leftovers. In anticipation of the predictable holiday chaos and our subsequent food coma, I aim for a moment of zen and economy, creating simple and efficient meals, deliciously comforting while using lurkers in the refrigerator as inspiration and freeing up space for turkey-centric leftovers. In this case, I unearthed a head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin, patiently waiting (as crucifers are so inclined) to be put to use from last week’s farmers market splurge. A chunk of pancetta gamely joined in, skirting its banishment to the freezer, along with a bag of well frozen peas eager for a defrost. Suddenly, I had an easy and healthy dinner on hand with no whiff of leftovers, stuffing or cranberry sauce – that will come later.
Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas
1 medium head cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack in oven until tender and bottoms are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to top rack and broil 2-3 minutes until tops are tinged brown. Remove from oven.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto in one layer on another baking sheet. Bake in same oven on middle rack until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, peas and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to warm the peas. Add cauliflower, prosciutto and 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and additional cheese on the side.