Before we get to this insanely delicious yet cauliflower carbonara pasta bake, I want to tell you this:
I am an ex-professional ballet dancer turned food-loving writer.
Just hearing that sentence balloons my soul with pride. Not only because I was able to let go of a lifelong dream with hopes that just maybe there was a happier path for me but also because I see the pure unabashed freedom in it.
That sentence reflects the freedom of my new life back to me. The freedom to express exactly what I want to express without a male director telling me exactly how to move, how to think, how to be. But more importantly, it reflects the freedom for me to eat whatever I want now.
I remember days as a ballet dancer when I’d try to get through an 8 hour dancing day on a grande soy latte and a banana. I remember diets of prune juice and raw tomatoes. I remember watching the Food Network to try to fill my belly up.
Luckily, by letting go of a once stubborn and mandatory dream, I found the joy of food. I am certain food is one, if not the, greatest pleasures. Do not try to argue with me on this one. I believe a bowl of spaghetti can heal a bad day, I believe a failed attempt at the perfect roasted chicken can bring you closer to your partner.
And while I pride myself on being free from diets now, it doesn’t mean I don’t love adding extra veggies to my dishes now. This Cauliflower Carbonara Pasta Bake is one of those recipes. It will fill you up and warm your soul while giving a delicious serving of veggies.
The cauliflower is the magic ingredient to this dish. It makes a delicious creamy sauce. And the pancetta? Oh boy. You just need a little to infuse the pasta bake with a smokey, salty, decadent touch.
I whip this up on Sunday nights and eat it throughout the week. Enjoy!
Cauliflower Carbonara Pasta Bake
This carbonara dish is made with a creamy, delicious cauliflower sauce. Satiating and delicious, it will become a new favorite pasta dish.
- 1 bag cauliflower frozen
- 1/2 cup chicken broth low sodium
- 1/2 cup milk your preference
- 3/4 cup parmesan grated
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic chopped
- 4-5 ounces pancetta 1/4 inch thick, chopped
- 1 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes optional
- 1/3 cup peas frozen
- 1 lb penne pasta
Preheat oven to 350. Cook the frozen cauliflower according to the package's microwave directions.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Saute your garlic for about 1-2 minutes, until golden but not burned.
Add the cauliflower, chicken broth, milk, 1/4 cup parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic with its olive oil to a blender. Blend until it creates a sauce-like consistency.
Saute the pancetta in the same pan you sauteed your garlic in. There's no need to add more oil. Cook until browned. Remove from pan and place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the grease.
Meanwhile, bring a generously salted pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta according to the package's directions. Be sure to keep al dente. Strain the pasta.
Add the pasta to a greased (olive oil spray) 9X13 baking dish. Add the cauliflower sauce, pancetta, peas, and chili flakes. Stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle 1/4-1/2 cup of parmesan on top.
Bake covered with foil for 10 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 5 more minutes to get the cheese nice and crispy.