Baked Cauliflower and Eggs

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Pasticcio di Cavolfiore e Uova

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Buon giorno!

What?? Cauliflower? Eggs? Down boys and girls! This Pasticcio di Cavolfiore e Uova  or Baked Cauliflower with Eggs is one heck of a dish. Italians use eggs in all sorts of ways – some of which might sound a little unconventional at first. Sometimes you will see eggs added on top or on the side of a very hot dish and then mixed in quickly so as to cook them, making the dish very rich with a velvety texture i.e. Carbonara. In others, like this one, the egg is fried or poached with a soft yolk and then added to a vegetable or meat dish when served, encouraging you to break the yolk and eat it along with the rest. In both cases, the egg is significant and adds considerable flavor and interest without which the dish would be lacking in interest and flavor.

The egg: This egg thing, my friends, is a very rustic and very Italian use of the ingredient. Uovo is egg in Italian and uova is the plural. No matter what language you are speaking, if you are making this dish, this is the time to go all out for the egg. The better the egg, the more rich and enjoyable the dish. The egg is the star, and this is the time to to let ‘er shine. Get the freshest, large egg you can find. You’ll want a beautiful vivid yolk that will impart the richest flavor when it oozes into each serving. If you are lucky enough to be in Italy, you’ll probably want to find a nice warm egg that was just laid and when cracked will startle the eye with its orange –  yes orange – hue. This would be an egg not soon forgotten.

Pasticcio: Depending on your way of thinking, this means either mess or pie in Italian. This dish is neither! It is obviously not a pie in the sense to which we are accustomed.  It is hardly a mess, as part of its heavenly allure is that OMG factor which appears at first bite. Yup! From first bite, you’ll be wondering – what is this wonderful thing?  However, this is one of the traditional names the dish is given. Often Italians will give something a name for which there is no reasonable translation or relation. You just have to go with it. It reminds me of one of the long funny stories my mother and father, Loretta and Attilio, would tell and then try to translate. In English often it made no sense. It was then that one of them would say “It’s better in Italian.” Probably so!

My experience: When I was growing up, my mother often added an egg,  sometimes cooked and sometimes uncooked, to a dish when she served it. Often, it was a soup – even a chicken soup.  Just as often, it was a meatless dish which, with the added protein and richness of the egg, became a more substantial meal. Many times, in the early days, it was a Friday meal when we weren’t allowed meat. Whatever the occasion, I always loved the addition of the egg. I liked to break it and watch the yolk permeate the food and sauce underneath. The flavor was always so much better with it.

Uses: Aside from its amazing flavor and ease of preparation, this dish is also notable for its versatility. It can, of course, be a meatless dinner dish – which was what I think it was originally meant to be. Also, it can be a brilliant brunch dish – lovely to look at and easy to make. The baked cauliflower can be prepared ahead with the fried eggs made and added just before serving. A fun touch – is to make individual ones in ramekins or small baking dishes – each topped with the egg.  BUT – for an amazing side dish, I highly recommend this one with or without the eggs. It is definitely flavorful and attractive enough to be served alongside grilled or roasted meats and fish.

So—there you have it: 3 in one! The main course, a brunch dish, a side dish. Could this get any better?

Let’s get to the tick tock!

PASTICCIO DI CAVOLFIORE E UOVA

(Baked) Cauliflower with Eggs

Serves: 6

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Large Head Cauliflower

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Cloves Fresh garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves + a couple of sprigs

1 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

2 c. Fresh Breadcrumbs

1/4 c. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

6 eggs Fried “Sunnyside Up”

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Instructions:

Cut the cauliflower into pieces. Add the garlic and thyme and toss to coat completely with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the fresh thyme sprigs on the top.

Roast cauliflower at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tender and slightly browned at edges.

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Place the roasted cauliflower in an oiled baking dish.

Sprinkle Parmigiano over the top.

Mix the breadcrumbs and parsley together and drizzle with some Olive oil – add salt and pepper.

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Spread the breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top.

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Remove from oven. Top with fried eggs and serve!

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BAKED CAULIFLOWER AND EGGS or PASTICCIO DI CAVALFIORE E UOVA is a uniquely Italian dish. Despite its simplicity in both preparation and ingredients, it is surprisingly satisfying and richly flavorful. It is one of my husband’s favorites and hopefully will be one of yours.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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