Cauliflower Pasta with Bacon and Parmesan


Sautéed cauliflower, onions, and bacon, tossed with pasta, Parmesan and toasted panko. So good!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

A friend told me the other day that cauliflower is “in” (as in hip, trendy, cool).

What? In the vicious struggle for vegetable world domination cauliflower is knocking kale off its mighty perch?

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And for those of us who are fangirls of both, do we take sides?

Hah! If cauliflower is finding a place among the trendy fooderati, well I say, about time. I mean really. Cauliflower is delicious. It’s great in cauliflower soup, roasted with Parmesan, or in curry. It’s also great with pasta.

In this dish we are browning some bacon and onions, cooking small cauliflower florets in the bacon fat, and tossing everything together with pasta, lemon zest, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This is one of those dishes that never left the kitchen because we ate every last bit of it.

Have a favorite creative dish that makes use of cauliflower? Let us know about it in the comments!

Cauliflower Pasta with Bacon and Parmesan Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 3 to 4 ounces thick-cut sliced bacon, cut into half inch pieces
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red onion (1 large red onion)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 4 cups small bite-sized cauliflower florets (see How to Cut and Core Cauliflower)
  • 1/2 pound cavatappi, gemelli, or fusilli dry pasta
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1 Bring salted water for pasta to a boil: Place a large pot of salted water (2 quarts of water, 1 Tbsp salt), on to the stove to boil. While the water is heating, continue with the recipe.

2 Cook the bacon: Place the bacon pieces in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Cook until lightly browned and much of the fat rendered, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan to a bowl, retaining the fat in the pan.

3 Brown the panko: While the bacon in step 2 is rendering, brown the panko in a separate skillet on medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When most of the panko is browned, remove from heat and place in a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, the parsley and thyme. Set aside.

4 Cook the onions and garlic: Increase the heat to medium high. You'll want about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of fat in the pan. If your bacon has not yielded that much fat, then add some olive oil to the pan. Add the sliced red onion. Cook until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an minute more.

Remove the onions and garlic from the pan, adding them to the bowl with the bacon.

5 Sauté the cauliflower: Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat on high heat. Add the cauliflower florets and toss to coat with the olive oil. Brown on high heat for 5 minutes, and then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the cauliflower florets are cooked through and tender.

6 Cook the pasta: About the same time that you start cooking the cauliflower, add the pasta to the boiling pasta water. Cook the pasta at a rolling boil for 8 to 10 minutes, until cooked through, but still a little firm to the bite, al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

7 Combine bacon, onions, cauliflower, pasta, lemon zest, Parmesan: Add the bacon and onions into the pan with the cauliflower. Stir in the pasta, lemon zest, grated Parmesan. Drizzle in another tablespoon of olive oil.

Sprinkle with some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pasta and cauliflower if it seems a bit dry. Serve topped with toasted seasoned breadcrumbs.

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Cauliflower Pasta Bacon

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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25 Comments / Reviews

No ImageCauliflower Pasta with Bacon and Parmesan

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Caroline

    This was so salty that we could not eat it. I’m surprised no one mentioned cutting down on the salt.


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  2. Cindy B

    Only made this because I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. Was perfectly delighted! Really enjoyed it. Would make again and not change a thing.


  3. Megan

    This was so good! We didn’t have bacon at home, so added some chicken sausage instead. We will definitely be making it again– even the three year old gobbled it up. Thank you!!


  4. Megan Duffett

    I’m a little confused… Do I add the “Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, the parsley and thyme. Set aside.” to the breadcrumbs or to the pan? Also, how do I put it all together? Do I just add everything together?

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  5. Sue Dufour

    We made this tonight for dinner and it was delicious…a little time consuming but it was our first try and am sure the more we make this dish the less time consuming it will be and I know that we will in fact go back to this as one of our favourite….it was scrumptious.


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