This whole thing is a bit surreal for me. You see, I’ve been “planning” to start a food blog for approximately four years now; four years of thinking about it, brainstorming names/recipes, and nitpicking every detail until it prevented me from actually doing anything! I would then shrug my shoulders, say “eh”, and go back to playing my saxophone. But, as I’ll eloquently say, sometimes you just have to do stuff. Sometimes you just have to dive in head first, regardless if you can see the bottom below. And that is exactly where it brings us today.
I was super excited to start on this first recipe post, but I knew I would have to learn to adjust the way that I do things in the kitchen from here on out. Growing up working in my father’s kitchens, he taught me to cook not by measurements, but by intuition. For example, he would have me begin to sauté some vegetables, instruct to season with salt and pepper, taste, and then adjust accordingly. He used the same concept for teaching me how to cook meats, fish, sauces, and everything else you can think of. Well, except desserts- you should’ve tasted the tiramisu I once attempted without measurements. Or rather, maybe you shouldn’t have. Anyways, the bottom line is that never once did I use measuring tools when cooking on the line, which for his rustic southern-Italian style of cuisine seemed fitting. However, now that I am relaying these recipes to all of you, making sure I have all of the right proportions and measurements is crucial to not only the success of the recipes, but more importantly to your success at home!
This recipe was inspired by a traditional carbonara, where the sauce is made by an amalgamation of cooked pasta water and egg yolks- no cream based sauce here, folks. The cauliflower transforms into something super delicious when roasted and caramelized with olive oil, fresh thyme, and spices, and the parmesan cheese and egg yolks bring the dish together at the end. *A key step to note is to turn the stove off and take the pan off of the burner completely when adding the parmesan cheese and egg yolks at the end of the recipe. Scrambled eggs are delicious and all- just not here.
I was also quickly reminded that roasting something in a New York City kitchen in the middle of summer is hilariously uncomfortable, but hopefully the end result will make it all worth it.
Roasted Cauliflower Carbonara
- 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced and separated
- 1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- 1 lb. fresh (or dried) fettuccini
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 large egg yolks
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with ⅓-cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a medium sized baking dish and roast cauliflower until browned and caramelized, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once finished, let cool slightly and mash with a fork to break up the large pieces left.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fettuccini until al dente. Reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta cooking water, then drain fettuccini and return it to pot.
Heat remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until well combined. Add cauliflower and reserved cooking liquid, adjust heat to medium low, and let simmer for about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat, and add parmesan cheese and egg yolks. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to ensure the egg yolks do not cook and form scrambled eggs in your pan! The mixture should become very creamy if done correctly. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Transfer cauliflower mixture to the pot with fettuccini, and toss to combine. Serve immediately, and garnish with additional parmesan cheese.