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Author Notes: This is a great recipe to make with your kids because it doesn't require a pasta machine. The Italians call this "Orecchiette", or "Little Ear" pasta, but mine usually come out a little longer, so I call them Donkey Ears, or Orecchie dell'Asino instead. You can use any spinach pasta with this dish if you don't want to make your own, but making it fresh gives it a lovely spinach flavor. The cauliflower gets wonderfully brown, but stays a bit crunchy, and takes on a lovely, nutty flavor. The little bit of red pepper and the lemon give it plenty of brightness, and the garlicky bread crumbs and cheese make it comfort food. —Burnt Offerings
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and blanched in boiling water for one minute, OR 5 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted
- 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cups semolina flour
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butte
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small head cauliflower (1 lb) - cleaned and cut into florets
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fine quality breadcrumbs
- zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
- To make the pasta dough, squeeze the spinach dry and chop it finely (a food processor is fine for this). Put the flours together in a bowl to blend thoroughly. Add the spinach, and using your fingers, gradually work the spinach into a dough and form a ball. If too dry, add a TBL of water and try again. Add water, a teaspoon at a time if necessary - but the dough should be fairly dry.
- Knead the dough until smooth an elastic - about 10 minutes (great job for the kids!). Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and wrap in plastic wrap.
- To form the pasta, roll one of the pieces of dough into a rope about 1/2 inch wide. With a sharp knife, snip off 1/8 inch of dough from the rope, roll it in flour, and put it in the palm of your hand (flour your hands). Press the dough into a small, indented disk shape with your thumb about an inch round. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
- Boil the pasta in 3 quarts of boiling water with 2 tsp of salt. Start testing them after 20 minutes, and cook until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the cauliflower pieces and saute' for 4 minutes, stirring only once. Season the cauliflower with the salt, thyme, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes while it's cooking.
- After 4 minutes, turn the heat down to medium, and continue cooking the cauliflower for another 6-8 minutes until it is golden brown all over. Remove to a warm bowl.
- Reduce the heat to low, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, garlic and lemon zest, and cook for 15 seconds.
- Add the breadcrumbs, sage, and more pepper and cook till the breadcrumbs are well toasted and golden brown - about 4 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, toss well with the cauliflower, and scatter the breadcrumbs over just before serving. Serve with plenty of grated cheese and a slice of lemon to squeeze over top.
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