Italian cooking is about the art of “less is more”. When I thought of this pasta dish, I thought the flavors of roasted cauliflower, boiled ham, and cumin would work well together. And they did! And I resisted the urge to add more ingredients other than the basics such as parmigiano reggiano and extra virgin olive oil. This allows the browned earthy flavors of the roasted cauliflower, the sweet earthy spicy cumin and the bright porky ham to shine. The parmigiano and garlic increase the depth of flavor in a supporting role. I chose a short pasta shape to match the texture of the toppings. (Long pasta shapes such as spaghetti are more suitable to be served with a sauce.) So even though this is not by any means a classical Italian dish, I like to think that an Italian could have come up with this. It sure was delicious and I will definitely make this again. This dish is easy and relatively quick, roasting the cauliflower is what takes the longest. Here’s what I did…
150 grams (1/3 lb) short pasta
200 grams (7 oz) boiled ham, diced
400 grams (.9 lb) cauliflower florets
2 tsp cumin seeds
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground white pepper
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 clove garlic (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Break the cauliflower into small florets (similar to the size of the pasta) until you have 400 grams (.9 lb) of florets, and toss them with olive oil in an oven proof dish. Roast them in the oven at 200ºC/400ºF for about half an hour, or until nicely browned.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. About 10-15 minutes before the cauliflower will be done, add 150 grams (1/3 lb) of pasta and salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta for the time indicated on the package for al dente.
Heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Add a garlic clove (if using), tilt the pan, and cook the garlic until it is golden. Then discard it. In this way, the oil will be infused with a gentle garlic flavor.
This could work with either a full-bodied white or a light red, neither of which should be very acidic as this is an earthy dish. We enjoyed this with a nice red from Piemonte, Dolcetto di Dogliani.