Rigatoni with cauliflower and bacon is a super hearty dish that satisfies that ever burning pasta craving!

Rigatoni with cauliflower and bacon in black bowl on wood table.

As you can see in the pics pancetta was used, but bacon will be just as good for this recipe.  So use whichever one you like or have easier access to.  Additionally, any tubular pasta shape is fine.

For this recipe you will need bacon or pancetta, a head of cauliflower, garlic, olive oil and parsley.  Grated cheese such as pecorino is nice to have but optional.

Ingredients shown: cauliflower, box of rigatoni, parsley, garlic and pancetta.

How To Make Rigatoni With Cauliflower And Bacon

Rigatoni with cauliflower and bacon process shot collage group number one.

  1. Begin by discarding the core of the cauliflower and chopping/breaking the pieces into fairly large florets.
  2. Chop the garlic into small pieces. Finely chop a 1/4 cup of fresh parsley.   Start the pasta boiling process (2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon of water) in salted water.
  3. In a large pan saute the pancetta until crsip with a touch of olive oil (just to get it going) on medium-low heat.  The pancetta should take about 10-15 minutes to crisp up and render the fat.
  4. Remove the pancetta when crisp with a slotted spoon and saute the garlic for 2-3 minutes in the fat drippings.

Process shot collage group number two.

  1. Add the cauliflower to the pan and give it a stir to coat the florets with all that flavor.  Add 2 ounces of water to the pan, turn heat to medium-high and cover with a lid to allow the cauliflower to steam and cook quicker.
  2. After approximately 7 minutes remove the lid, turn heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes longer to evaporate the water and to brown the cauliflower.  Move the cauliflower around with a wooden spoon to achieve even cooking.  Season the cauliflower with a 1/2 tsp of black pepper and 1 tsp of kosher salt.
  3. Fish out the ‘al dente’ pasta with a spider or drain in a colander.  If draining make sure to reserve at least 2 cups of pasta water.  Turn the heat to medium- high and add 1 cup of pasta water to the pan.  Let it cook for 2 minutes to slightly thicken, then add the pasta.
  4. Return the pancetta to the pan, and continue to cook for 1 more minute.  Thoroughly mix the cauliflower, pancetta and rigatoni together.  Add the parsley on top, mix and remove the pan from the heat.  Taste test and adjust any salt or pepper if required.  If the dish gets at all dry before serving, add a couple ounces of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up.   Add a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and serve with grated parmesan  or pecorino cheese.

Rigatoni with cauliflower and bacon in large pan on wood table with cheese, bread and chili flakes on the side.

Hope you enjoy this cauliflower and pancetta pasta recipe!  Again, pancetta and bacon are completely interchangeable for this one.

A great loaf of Italian bread, grated cheese, chili flakes and some good extra virgin olive oil are all that’s needed to finish the recipe off.  If you need a green on the side check out this Simple Sauteed Italian Broccoli.

Pasta With Cauliflower And Bacon Substitutions And Additions

  • Pancetta, bacon and guanciale are all interchangeable for this recipe.  A half pound of any of the three is a good amount.
  • Roasted garlic adds amazing flavor.  If you have prepared the roasted garlic in advance, it’s as simple as adding it in towards the end.
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs add a wonderful texture and flavor.  Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of toasted breadcrumbs on top  right before serving.  The breadcrumbs will absorb some of the moisture, so make sure to have that pasta water on hand to thin if required.


  • Pancetta/Bacon – The pancetta does not have to be fully crisp like bacon.  10-15 minutes will definitely be enough time for it.  The bacon might take a little longer to fully crisp up.
  • Pasta water – Pasta water is always critical in a dish like this.  Save the water to thin it out if required.  Use a few ounces at a time to bring the sauce consistency right back.

Pasta in pan with grated cheese on top.

Difficulty Level

On a 1-5 scale with 1 being easy this recipe is a 3.  Take your time crisping up the bacon/pancetta.  Also, during the cauliflower step make sure to get some nice browning on it.

More Pasta Dishes You Will Love

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Rigatoni with Cauliflower and Bacon

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Pan seared cauliflower, bacon, garlic and rigatoni create the ultimate hearty dinner.


  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 pound bacon or pancetta
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


  • Chop the cauliflower into florets. Finely chop a 1/4 cup fresh parsley. Rough chop 8 garlic cloves.
  • Cook pasta to 'al dente' in salted (2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon) water.
  • Saute the pancetta in a large pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat until slightly crisp. After the pancetta crisps up (about 10-15 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan add the garlic and saute for 3 minutes in the drippings.
  • Add the cauliflower to the pan and coat well. Add 2 ounces of water, turn the heat to medium-high and cover. After 7 minutes remove lid, turn heat to medium and finish cooking the cauliflower to allow it to brown. Season the cauliflower with 1 tsp kosher salt and a 1/2 tsp of black pepper.
  • Reserve the pasta water before draining. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the pasta to the pan, along with the pancetta. Thoroughly mix together while cooking.
  • Taste test and adjust salt/pepper if required. Add the parsley, mix, then remove pan from the heat. If the pasta dries out, add a touch more of the reserved pasta water to loosen the consistency back up. Drizzle a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil all over the rigatoni and serve. Enjoy!


  • Pancetta and bacon are interchangeable for this recipe.  If using bacon it might take a little longer to crisp up.
  • Bacon and pancetta are quite salty.  Only 1 tsp of kosher salt was used, adjust accordingly.
  • Reserve the pasta water.  If the rigatoni dries out before serving, add the pasta water a couple of ounces at a time to bring the consistency back to perfect. 


Calories: 758kcal | Carbohydrates: 66.4g | Protein: 35.1g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 1300mg | Potassium: 724mg | Fiber: 1.7g | Sugar: 1.6g | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 4.9mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Lorener says:

    5 stars
    Delicious, quick meal, and filling meal! My family loved it and a wonderful way to incorporate vegetables for kids. Will be a regular for meat free Mondays! Served with a simple salad.

    Love your videos! Thank you so much!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Lorener, I’m so happy your family enjoyed this one and that you like the videos. Thank you for watching!