Cauliflower Gratin with Pasta Shells – Orange County Register

Caramelizing cauliflower gives it such an appealing toasty edge. Cookbook author and host of Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa,” Ina Garten, knows how to show off these lightly browned florets to their best advantage. In her latest book, “Cooking for Jeffrey” (Clarkson Potter, $35), she showcases them in a very tasty gratin.

The gratin also includes several cheeses, along with medium-sized pasta shells, fresh herbs, garlic, capers and lemon zest. A crispy topping crowns the top, a mix of panko (Japanese bread flakes), olive oil, parsley and Pecorino. The dish feeds a crowd. A mixed green salad makes a good partner, as well as a bowl of spicy olives.

Crusty baked shells and cauliflower
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound medium pasta shells, such as Barilla
Olive oil
2 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head), divided use
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves, see cook’s notes
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 cups freshly grated Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, lightly packed (10 ounces with rind), see cook’s notes
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese, see cook’s notes
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

I use fresh basil instead of sage when my garden overflows with basil (and it is delicious). I can’t always find the Italian-made fontina that Ina uses. I have substituted domestic Fontina in this recipe and it is still delicious and less expensive. To grate (or rather grind) Pecorino, place in food processor bowl and grind with the steel blade. To make this dish ahead, assemble without panko topping, cover and refrigerate up…

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