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Penne with Cauliflower, Bacon and Creamy Tomato Sauce

  • ACTIVE: 45 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN
  • SERVINGS: 12
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  1. One 2 1/2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  2. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  3. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  4. 1 pound thick-sliced bacon
  5. 2 pounds penne
  6. One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  7. 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  10. 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  11. 2 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese (14 ounces)
  12. 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  13. 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, or until tender and browned; let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, working in 2 batches, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop the bacon.
  3. Butter 2 large shallow baking dishes. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne just until al dente; drain. Return the penne to the pot. Stir in the cauliflower, tomatoes, cream, garlic, thyme, crushed red pepper, 2 cups of the Fontina cheese and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dishes and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Fontina and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling and lightly browned. Sprinkle the pasta with the parsley and chopped bacon and serve.
Make Ahead The pasta can be assembled and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Suggested Pairing

An Italian Dolcetto has the light, fresh fruitiness to contrast with the creamy cheese and smoky bacon flavors, and enough lively acidity to stand up to the tomatoes.