Roasted Cauliflower with Pancetta & Olives

Occasionally, the New York Times “Cooking” newsletter has an attention-grabbing, hyperbolic headline that makes me stop reading my emails and go directly to their website. Such was the case earlier this week when the subject line read: “The Most Incredible Cauliflower.”

After seeing a picture of the purportedly incredible dish and reading the recipe, it didn’t take me long to decide what we were having for dinner. And that we had all the ingredients, even the cauliflower, on hand reinforced my decision. But would this dish live up to the hype?

The recipe requires minimal preparation and, like most sheet-pan dinners, is perfect for weeknight dinners. I pretty much followed the recipe except for increasing the amount of red-pepper flakes and extending the cooking time by about 10 minutes.

This is a rich, deeply flavored vegetable dish. The roasted cauliflower has a meaty texture and warm, earthy flavors from the cumin, pancetta, and nutty Parmigiano. The red-pepper flakes add just the right amount of spice, which pokes through the briny, garlicy, olive dressing, while the lemon juice cuts through the salinity of the pancetta and the olives. The final sprinkle of parsley before serving brings a certain vibrancy to the dish.

We were both impressed and shall definitely see this truly incredible dish on our table again before too long.

Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta and Olives (adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark in The New York Times.)



1 cauliflower (about 1.5 pounds), trimmed of leaves and cut into florets
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
⅓ cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or microplaned
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
4-ounce package of cubed pancetta
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (use a box grater)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, for serving

1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F with a shelf in the middle position.

2. In a small bowl, toss the chopped olives, garlic, red-pepper flakes, salt to taste with the lemon juice. Keep the salinity of olives in mind when adding salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil.

Whisking the dressing
Whisked dressing

3. Place cauliflower on a rimmed 9×13 sheet pan and toss well with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cauliflower tossed with oil

4. Roast on the middle rack for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, add the pancetta and cumin seeds to pan, and gently toss.

After initial roasting
Adding pancetta and cumin seeds

6. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on top and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and the cheese is lightly browned.

Sprinkling with Parmigiano
Ready for next stage of roasting
Done; ready to be dressed

7. Spoon the olive dressing all over the roasted cauliflower while still hot and toss. Taste, and adjust for seasoning, red-pepper flakes or lemon juice, if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsely before serving.

Adding dressing
Sprinkled with parsley

Serve in warmed pasta bowls.


Wine Pairing: Dry Alsatian Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc

11 thoughts on “Roasted Cauliflower with Pancetta & Olives

  1. I have a head of cauliflower and a bunch of pancetta and will make this soon. Another cauliflower recipe I like is roasted “steaks” with brown butter and caper. Yum. My vegetarian friends love it.

  2. Looks mighty tasty. We often roast cauliflower, but you’ve taken it to a different level. A must-try recipe. Thanks for sharing…

  3. This is fantastic! But next time I think I will skip the olives because I don’t really like olives and it’s too much salt. Might try a handful of chopped walnuts for the last 15 minutes.

  4. Was very good. Only thought, depending on how fatty the pancetta is, I might pre-panfry the pancetta a little and drain off extra fat before mixing with the cauliflower.

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