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Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: You can make this ahead, cover and refrigerate; bake before serving. Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs that are bigger and lighter than the traditional crumb, which could be used. From "Cooking for Jeffrey," by Ina Garten.

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 3/4 lb. medium pasta shells

• Good olive oil

2 1/2 lb. cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)

3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh sage leaves

• 2 tbsp. capers, drained

• 1 tbsp. minced garlic (3 cloves)

• 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest

• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 c. freshly grated Fontina cheese, lightly packed (10 oz. with rind)

• 1 c. (8 oz.) fresh ricotta

• 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)

6 tbsp. freshly grated Pecorino cheese

• 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions on the package. Since it will be baked later, don't overcook it! Drain and pour into very large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat, adding half the cauliflower in 1 layer, and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until florets are lightly browned and tender. Pour cauliflower, including the small bits, into bowl with the pasta. Add 3 more tablespoons oil to sauté pan, add remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender, and add to the bowl.

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to bowl and stir carefully. Stir in the Fontina.

Transfer half the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top.

Combine panko, Pecorino, parsley and 1 tablespoon olive oil in small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.