Using good quality Italian cheeses makes all the difference in this recipe. Taleggio cheese is a semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It is pungent and tangy, and provides the majority of flavor for this dish. Pecorino cheese is a well-seasoned cheese with a sharp, smoky flavor and the perfect compliment to Taleggio. It is made from 100% sheep’s milk. The addition of fresh rosemary and white wine pair well with these handcrafted cheeses.
The neat thing about this dish, in addition to its wonderful flavor, is that it can be made ahead of time. Just cover, refrigerate, and bake the next day as needed. If your market does not have Taleggio cheese, you may substitute Fontina or Gouda.
1 medium head of cauliflower (florets only)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (chopped fine)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups heavy cream
8 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)
8 ounces Taleggio cheese (rind removed and grated)
12 ounces large shell pasta
4 tablespoons cup dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the cauliflower until tender, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a colander and rinse with cold water (retain the cooking water in the large pot). Set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about three minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook over, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about eight minutes. Add the wine and bring mixture to a boil until liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cream, 1 cup each of the Pecorino and the Taleggio cheeses.
Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot. Scrape the cauliflower and cheese sauce into the pasta and toss well. Spread half of the pasta into a 3-quart baking dish and top with 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Top with the remaining pasta, remaining cheeses, and remaining 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.
Bake the pasta for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a fresh garden salad and a cold bottle of your favorite white wine.