Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon & Breadcrumbs

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

4 generous servings


  • 3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower (3 pounds), cored and cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 pound campanelle pasta (I prefer Fusilli or Rigatone)
  • 5.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use water)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


Bacon Panko Topping

  1. Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. (I remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat).
  2. Add panko and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until panko is well browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Transfer Panko mixture to bowl and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.


I’ve had mixed results cooking the cauliflower the way the recipe is written below, possibly because I don’t have a 12-inch skillet. Instead, I toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt and roast in a 450 degree oven until browned, stirring half way through, approximately 15 minutes.
  1. Heat 5 teaspoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add cauliflower and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is crisp-tender and browned in spots, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.


  1. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened, 4 to 7 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to high, add pasta, broth, and wine, and bring to simmer. Cook pasta (maintaining a boil), stirring frequently, until most of liquid is absorbed and pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. It’s ok if there is a good amount of liquid still in the pot when the pasta is done, as it will serve as the pasta sauce.
  4. Remove pot from heat; stir in parsley, lemon juice, and cauliflower; and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide the pasta among 4 plates and sprinkle with bread crumb topping.

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