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Dan Pashman, creator and host of the award-winning podcast The Sporkful (@thesporkful), also has another claim to fame. He invented a curled, ridged pasta shape called cascatelli (Italian for little waterfalls), which took the food world by storm and was named one of Time magazine's Best Inventions of 2021! Rachael even cooked with it in her Green Caponata Pasta dish—yum! Here, he prepares it with a cauliflower, bacon and sage sauce that he and his mom, Linda, adapted from a recipe by Lidey Heuck, a former assistant to Ina Garten.
"It seems that whenever I look at a recipe now, I immediately think about how it would look and taste with cascatelli. When I saw this recipe, I, of course, pictured those tasty little cauliflower florets nestled in the curve of a cascatelli with a chunk of bacon by its side. Cascatelli is perfect for nestling and this is just a great combination of textures and flavors." —Dan
Pro Tip from Dan and Linda: If you happen to have seasoned breadcrumbs around, toss some with a bit of the lemon zest and sprinkle the combo over the finished pasta dish. It adds a little tasty crunch. Also, as cascatelli is larger and sturdier than most short pastas, it can handle more ingredients without being overwhelmed, but it might need a bit more liquid depending on how saucy you like your pasta.
Dan also has two new pasta shapes out now: Vesuvio and Quattrotini. Both are based off of shapes only found in Italy.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Make sure foil comes up the sides of the pan. Arrange the strips of bacon on the foil. They can touch, but not overlap. Cook in the oven for 14 to 16 minutes, depending on thickness. You don't need to turn it. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve about 3 tablespoons of bacon grease. Discard foil. When cool enough, dice the bacon. Set aside 3 of the diced strips for garnish.
Raise oven temperature to 450°F. If you have convection, use that setting; it will help with browning. Cover the same sheet pan with a new piece of foil. Put the cauliflower florets on the pan, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then spread into a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, 18 to 20 minutes, until browned. They should be tender, but not mushy. Toss the cauliflower with the diced bacon. Set aside. This part can be done a couple of hours in advance and left out; it will be reheated when you mix it with the pasta.
Bring 4 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a boil. Cook cascatelli for 11 minutes. Remove 1 ½ cups of pasta water. Drain pasta and spread out on baking sheet while you prepare the sauce. (You may toss pasta with a tablespoon of olive oil, if you wish.)
Put the 3 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat in the pasta pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and cook, stirring until browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the cauliflower and bacon mixture.
Turn heat to low. Put the drained pasta back in the pot. Add lemon juice, 1 cup pasta water and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir and toss for a minute or 2 to blend. Add more cheese and pasta water if it seems too dry. Toss until sauce comes together and ingredients are blended.
Stir in cauliflower, bacon and sage. Add more pasta water if it still seems too dry. Toss. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.