One of the best things about the fall is all the beautiful winter veggies like squash, brussels sprouts, and our favorite, cauliflower. And if you're lucky, you'll be able to find purple and green colored cauliflower in addition to the standard white options. In general, we love cauliflower in any preparation, but there's something perfect about colorful cauliflower in a hearty autumn dish.
Once you start to feel the brisk fall air, it's time for something warm and comforting. And maybe a bit spicy! The brilliant hatch chiles in this dish give it a brightness that's perfect for any occasion from a dinner party to an average weeknight. What better way to bridge the end of one season and the beginning of another than with pairing these two ingredients in a light yet satisfying dish?
If you don't have hatch chiles on hand or available where you live, then use Anaheim peppers as a substitute. The truth is, Anaheim peppers are in essence the same varietal as Hatch Chiles, except they are grown outside of Hatch New Mexico. But more importantly, they are available all year round. You can find them in the produce aisle of your grocery store near the bell peppers; you can’t miss the long skinny light green peppers.
Due to their unique exquisite taste which is only further highlighted once roasted, the Hatch Chiles make a perfect creamy sauce that smothers the pasta and roasted cauliflower florets perfectly. The pancetta pushes it over the top for me, but if you are looking for a delicious vegetarian alternative, then just hold the candied pieces of pork, but don’t skip the toasted pumpkin seeds, because in addition to that great crunch, they give a different layer of flavor that ties it all together. Buen Provecho!
Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Pancetta and Pepitas in a Creamy Green Chile Sauce Recipe
- 1 lb. hatch chiles or Anaheim chiles
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 ¼ cup sour cream
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 lbs. cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 pancetta slices, ½” thick slices cut into small dice
- 1 lb. orecchiette pasta or pasta shells
- ¼ cup of pepitas ( Hulled Pumpkin Seeds)
- Set oven to the broiler setting. Wash and dry peppers and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer, making sure they are not touching each other. To char the chiles, place under the broiler until chile skins blacken but not burn, approximately 3 minutes. Turn chiles over once and allow other side to char. Transfer chiles to a paper or plastic bag and close, or place chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. (This step will allow chiles to steam and loosen skin to peel easily). Leave broiler oven setting on.
- In the meantime bring a pot of salted water to boil. Once water reaches a constant boil, add cauliflower florets until slightly fork tender, approximately 4 -6 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the cauliflower and season with salt, place baking sheet in oven under the broiler and allow florets to roast for to your liking, at least 4 minutes.
- In a skillet, dry toast the pepitas until they have turned a golden brown color and they begin to pop. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- After chiles have been steaming and cool to the touch, at least 10 minutes, peel chiles using a paper towel to rub off charred skin. With a paring knife, remove and discard stem and seeds. Place chiles in a blender with the garlic, sour cream, chicken stock and 1 teaspoon of salt and blend until you get a smooth sauce consistency. Set sauce aside.
- In a skillet, cook pancetta pieces over medium low heat until most of the fat has rendered and the pancetta is golden and crispy. Remove pancetta from skillet and transfer to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Cook orecchiette pasta in boiling water, until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette and return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the creamy chile sauce with the pasta along with the reserved pasta water. Add the cauliflower florets and pancetta to pasta. Toss well and serve warm and top with toasted pepitas.
- Note: If you need to adjust spice level to your taste, you can add more sour cream and chicken stock to lower the heat to your desired level. These chiles in general are not very spicy but, sometimes you can get one that is spicier than normal.