Cauliflower Pasta with Bacon and Parmesan

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

Cauliflower Pasta Bacon
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?

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

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4 servings


  • 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 tablespoon chopped parsley

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 2 cups thinly sliced red onion (1 large red onion)

  • 1 tablespoon 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. Boil the water:

    Place a large pot of salted water (2 quarts of water, 1 tablespoon 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 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan to a bowl, retaining the fat in the pan.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  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.

    Elise Bauer
  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. Complete the dish:

    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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
677 Calories
38g Fat
43g Carbs
39g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 677
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 38g 49%
Saturated Fat 13g 64%
Cholesterol 95mg 32%
Sodium 1998mg 87%
Total Carbohydrate 43g 16%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 10mg 51%
Calcium 177mg 14%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 704mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.