We managed to wade our way through the entire month of January without touching any kind of pork product. Why you ask, would we undertake such an endeavor? The simple answer is because I wanted to and by extension Phillip had to. The complicated answer has something to do with animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and the fact that pigs are just so god damn cute, but I won't bore you with a long winded explanation.
Then, on February 1st we promptly went to my neighborhood diner and ordered french toast, over easy eggs, homefries, and three sausage links. It was glorious. It was euphoric. But I felt awful. Not only about the poor pig that died in order for me to get my preservative laden breakfast sausage, but also for my obvious lack of willpower. It got me thinking. Though it might be unrealistic to say that I'll stop eating pork for good (just put a slice of prosciutto in front of me, I dare you, I will probably bite your hand off in my fervor to eat it), as long as it has helped me be more aware of the food choices I make on a daily basis, no-pork-January has done its job.
This pasta in its many different incarnations, is what got me through the bulk of January and what I hope will get me through the rest of the winter, hopefully preventing me from making the spaghetti and sweet porky meatballs that has been haunting my dreams. It is salty from the anchovies, stinky from what might be a few too many garlic cloves, and slightly sweet from the roasted cauliflower. Three of the best flavors in the world.
You can use whatever pasta shape you have on hand, but my one suggestion is to use a hearty pasta. No angel hair, no wimpy egg noodles. Something short like fusilli or gemelli are great. Here I used a thicker, hand nested tagliatelle, but you could use another hearty long noodle like linguine. Whichever way you choose, maybe we can save a few pigs (or cows or chickens or sheep or goats) together.
Cooking time for the cauliflower can vary dramatically depending on how large you cut the florets and how dark your baking pan is. I find that a dark metal requires far less time than a material like porcelain. Your safest bet is to check every 10 minutes to so to make sure it's not overcooking, otherwise the cauliflower will fall apart when you toss it into the pasta.
Did I mention that this is a very stinky pasta? Definitely feel free to dial down the garlic or anchovies, though I wouldn't suggest it.
Serves 2 to 3.
1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
5 to 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
6 to 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
6 oz dried pasta, such as tagliatelle, but linguine or a short pasta work well too
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1 lemon wedge (about 1 tsp lemon juice)
1/2 cup parmesan for serving
chopped parsley for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large baking pan, toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the cauliflower isn't overcooking. When done it should be cooked through but not mushy. Remove from oven and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. About 4 minutes before the pasta is done, heat up remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large stainless steel pan on medium heat. Fry garlic and and anchovies until garlic is just starting to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Transfer pasta and water to the pan, turn heat to low, and toss well with the oil/garlic/anchovy mixture. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the roasted cauliflower. Gently fold everything together.
Divide evenly between 2 or 3 plates, top with parmesan and parsley, and enjoy.