Serves 6


Orecchiette is a great choice for the pasta shape here – it will catch the little nuggets of pancetta and cauliflower so you’ll have a bit of all of the flavors of this dish in every bite – but any other shell or corkscrew shape would work well. If you skip the pasta altogether, this is also a great vegetable side.


  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced, white and light green parts only (about 2 cups)
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, stalks removed, florets and tender leaves cut into ½ inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • Peperoncino
  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs, or as needed


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the chicken broth in a small saucepan just to simmer and keep warm.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and is lightly browned but still soft in the center, about 4 minutes. Add the leeks and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is wilted and begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Season lightly with salt and a generous pinch of peperoncino.

Pour the chicken stock into the skillet, bring to a boil and lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook until al dente. When the pasta is done, remove with a spider directly to the sauce. Add the parsley and breadcrumbs, and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Let simmer a minute, until the breadcrumbs thicken the sauce. Adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more breadcrumbs if it is still too soupy, or a little pasta water if it is too tight. Remove the skillet from the heat, drizzle with a little more olive oil, toss and serve.