Friday, March 30, 2012

Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Cauliflower, Parmesan and Pine Nuts

Well, in true Big Mary style I have fretted and 2nd guessed myself for more than a month over this recipe.  It's an old favorite of mine that I developed years ago trying to revitalize the vegetarian pasta offerings at an old kitchen best left unremembered.  Trouble is I was always making it for around 50 people or more at a time, and we just never got around to writing up a recipe for it.

And anytime I've made it at home, it was casually thrown together based on a mix of how much cauliflower I had and a generous supply of tried and true kitchen instinct.  When I got around to dragging out the scale and measuring spoons, back in ... oh Lord was  it February????  I came up with a version that was tasty, looked great, but was just a little too sweet from the caramelized onions.  

This was followed by a month of ponderous introspection, depleted motivation and significant self doubt.  About many things not just pasta.  Good sense returned though, as it typically does, and I decided to give myself the benefit of the doubt, strap on Big Mary's apron and post this pasta ASAP.  After all, it's not my job to decide whether I'm worth reading.  I just need to get the damn words on the page, er screen, er... whatever.  Note to reader, this is NOT a shameless plea for praise.  Though patronage in the Renaissance manner might lift anyone's mood!

Which brings us to March 30 and the sprouting of the earliest Spring on record.  So before it's impossible to tempt anyone with a Roasted Cauliflower recipe let me toss this really tasty dish your way.  And if indeed the thought of more roasted cauliflower is causing the edge of your lip to curl involuntarily....  I bet this would be damn tasty with Roasted Asparagus also.....

So for those curious few, what I did to address the sweetness issue was to reduce the length of time the onions are caramelized, and de-glaze with a more generous amount of dry Vermouth.  I also think it's important to use the best quality of Parmesan you can afford.  Preferably freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano.  The nutty flavor of good parm will help to balance the sweetness of the onions.  And finally, hit the finished dish with a few fresh grinds of Black Pepper.


Chef's Note: For further discussion on caramelizing onions, please see Big Mary's blog post of Feb 6, 2012.

2      XL                     Yellow Onions,, sliced thin (about 2 lbs. total)
3      Tablespoons       Olive Oil
½      Cup                  Dry White Vermouth (or Dry White Wine)
½     large head          Cauliflower, cut into small florettes
2      Tablespoons       Olive Oil
½     Cup                   Pine Nuts, toasted in oven
12     Ounces              Spaghetti
½     Cup (or to taste) Parmesan Reggiano, freshly grated
                                Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
                                Freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Warm the olive oil in a extra large sauté pan.  Add onions and mix thoroughly.  Sauté onions over low heat, stirring often until caramelized to a golden tan.  About 15 – 18 minutes usually. Watch carefully during final 5 - 8 minutes of caramelizing.  Raise heat to medium high and de-glaze pan with vermouth or white wine.  Cook for a minute and the remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350*.   Lay pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 3 – 5 minutes.  They should be golden and aromatic.  Remove from oven and cool.
Raise oven temperature to 450*.  Toss cauliflower with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, S & P, and lay out on a baking sheet.  Don’t crowd the florettes, see picture. When oven is preheated, roast until lightly browned and cooked.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook spaghetti until al dente.  As spaghetti is cooking, return onions in their pan to low heat.  Add cauliflower.  When spaghetti is 1 minute from being ready, drain (reserving some cooking water) and add to onion cauliflower mix.  Raise heat, add about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and mix pasta together. Adjust seasonings, add toasted pine nuts and Parmesan, and toss again.

Serve garnished with parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper and parsley.

© Big Mary’s Kitchen 2011