Cauliflower Pasta

FYI I'm living in Malaysia (in an underdeveloped town) so some western / European ingredients are hard to come by or they are very very expensive so sometimes I use local material sourced from local store.

This recipe can be made for vegetarians (just take out all the meat in the recipe, it will taste good no matter what).

Portion for 4 people

1 mid sized cauliflower, cut into florets, main stem discarded

1 box of mushroom preferably white button mushrooms (because they taste subtle), Aeon will sell them (usually 1 box is around 20 pieces) cut in quarters or sliced into 3 pieces.

4-5 tablespoon of premium butter (unsalted) depending on how much u like butter (Lurpak if u can afford, don't use butter that is too cheap, around RM9-14 range will be considered premium)

1 red onion and 1 yellow onion (big ones) chopped fine

3 cloves garlic squashed and cut into small pieces

extra virgin olive oil

salt (to taste)

black pepper (to taste)

parsley, any kind, preferably Italian (fresh as much as you like or dried 2 tablespoon)

bacon cut into small chunks (streaky, optional)

4-6 pieces salami depending on size (any kind that you like) cut into small pieces (optional)

2-3 chilli of any kind (do not use those that are too hot) chopped fine (optional)

grated Parmesan cheese (half a cup, optional)

1/2 fresh lemon juice and lemon zest (optional)

3 tablespoons smoked paprika (optional)

cooking method:

1) This is the same concept as making mash potatoes to cook the cauliflower.  Boil half a pot of water (use big pot if possible), when it starts to warm, put in all the cauliflower florets and close the lid until the water boils, then turn to low heat.

2) Simmer for 15-20 minutes until cauliflower is soften (use a fork to test).  When it's soft enough to be mashed (fork can go easily into the stems), get all them out of the pot, DO NOT throw away the water because it will be used to cook your pasta, all the sweet flavours are in the water now.  Keep the water warm with very low heat.

3) There are 2 ways of mashing the cauliflower, by using a food blender (easiest) or if you don't have one, just use a fork.  Put 1 tablespoon of butter into the blender with the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt, paprika, lemon zest and start blending (or mashing with the fork) for a short while, test the flavour, this I cannot teach you because everyone's taste buds are not the same.  If it doesn't have enough flavour, add a bit more pepper and salt, blend or fork it again then test it again until you like it (make sure it is not too salty or peppery because you still have to add other ingredients).  For my personal preference, I like to use a fork because the texture of the cauliflower sauce will be a bit rough compared to blending, and I only add 4 tablespoons of pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt to a medium sized cauliflower.

4) Use another pot (with a handle), put the olive oil (2 swirls) and 2 tablespoons of butter into it then turn on the heat.  Wait until butter starts to melt, put in the bacon and salami, stir and toss them, add more butter if it's starting to dry out.

5) When the bacon ready (depends on how you like them, crispy or not) the salami will be ready at the same time, take them all out (with a thong or chopsticks) to a plate and let them sit.  DO NOT drain the oil, put the onions and garlic into the pot, use this opportunity to deglaze the pot, let them clean up the black residue from the bacon and salami under the pot, those are the flavours you WANT to keep.

6) Cook the onions until they are slightly golden (they will absorb a lot of the oil and butter), put in the dried parsley (if you are using fresh ones, wait until you throw in the pasta) chilli and mushrooms then add 2 swirls of olive oil, some pepper (1-2 tablespoons) and salt (1-2 teaspoons to taste).  Stir until mushrooms are coated with everything then put on the lid for 3 minutes.

7) Start cooking your pasta (preferably Fusilli, Rotini, Macaroni, Rigatoni or any tubular pasta that can hold thick sauce well) with the cauliflower flavoured water you kept at the beginning (remember to add salt to the water).

8) After 3 minutes the mushrooms should be soft already, open the lid and add all the cauliflower sauce / mash and lemon juice into the pot.  Stir until everything is evenly mixed with low heat.  Add a bit of butter and olive oil if it's too dry (don't be afraid if you accidentally added too much as the pasta will soak everything up nicely).
9) When your pasta is cooked, you either drain the water and pour in the pot of ingredients or you do it vice verse (put your pasta into the ingredient pot).  Put in the and Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley and stir with low heat until everything is mixed and pasta is coated with everything.  Serve.

Side note:  This dish can be kept overnight in a fridge and can be eaten as a cold dish or you can warm it up with a pan with some olive oil.  Just make sure it is in room temperature before you store it in a container and put into the fridge.


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