Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan Recipe (2024)

By Melissa Clark

Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan Recipe (1)

Total Time
45 minutes
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Studded with salty olives, pancetta and Parmesan that gets golden and crisp at the edges, this is roasted cauliflower at its brightest and most full-flavored. You can serve the caramelized florets either as a vegetable-based main dish or a hearty side to roasted meats or fish, or big bowls of pasta. The recipe calls for using a package of finely diced pancetta that practically melts into the sauce. But if you prefer a chunkier texture, you can dice it yourself into ½-inch cubes, and add them with the cauliflower. Or, to make this vegetarian, just leave the pancetta out.

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Yield:2 main-dish servings or 4 side-dish servings

  • 1large head cauliflower (about 1¾ pounds), trimmed and cut into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
  • ½cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • cup olives, crushed, pitted and chopped
  • 1fat garlic clove, finely grated or minced
  • tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into ⅛-inch cubes
  • ¾teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds
  • ½cup shredded (not ground) Parmesan
  • ¼cup chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves and tender stems, for serving

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (2 servings)

991 calories; 88 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 53 grams monounsaturated fat; 9 grams polyunsaturated fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams dietary fiber; 9 grams sugars; 30 grams protein; 1450 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt until well coated. Roast for 15 minutes.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olives, garlic, lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon red-pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt. Drizzle in the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, whisking well.

  3. Step


    After the cauliflower has roasted for 15 minutes, add pancetta and cumin seeds to pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, the pancetta rendered, and cheese is golden brown and crunchy.

  4. Step


    Spoon olive dressing all over roasted cauliflower while still hot and toss to combine. Taste, and add more salt, red-pepper flakes or lemon juice, if needed. Scatter parsley over the top before serving.



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Cooking Notes

john c

What kind of olives should be used?

Marsha Halper

Has anyone tried substituting anchovies for pancetta or bacon? Or discovered a different, non-meat substitute?

Helene Russo

My husband can't eat spicy things like red pepper flakes. What type of seasoning can I substitute?

Allan L.

Where does “grated” lie on the spectrum including “shredded” and “ground” Parmesan?

Brian V

While the flavor is fantastic, the end result is far too oily for my taste, and I think that's a result mostly of the 1/4 cup of olive oil in the dressing. With olive oil used in roasting, the rendered fat, and the oil from the browned cheese, I'd cut the amount I used in the dressing all the way down to 1 Tbl, at most.

Cheryl St Onge

We added a can of rinsed and drained chick peas to the cauliflower before roasting and used Aleppo pepper and lime instead of lemon. The chick peas got a little crispy adding a nice texture. This was an excellent dish that will be added to our fall rotation.


Any olives you like would be good. I especially like Castelveltrano olives if you can find them - they’re mild and meaty green olives with a less salty taste. I find many olives such as kalamatas to be too salty and/or oily.


Overall flavor was great. We used bacon instead of pancetta. Would have been better to pre-render the bacon, and then add to the semi-roasted cauliflower. Overall too oily/fatty, despite not using the full amount of olive oil and using 2 pounds of cauliflower. Would keep the bacon fat and reduce the olive oil. Needed to be broiled for 5 minutes at the end to crisp up since it was so wet from the excess fat.

Jennifer Milligan

Excellent recipe. Perfect - I followed it exactly.In my oven, which is temperature accurate according to my inserted thermometer, the cooking time was too long. Next time I will roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes at the start, and 10-15 minutes for the second roast when the bacon is added.

Tim from Winnipeg

I’ve always been a fan of cauliflower, particularly when roasted. Years ago, I came across a newspaper recipe that called for tossing cauliflower florets with olive oil, finely chopped rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Roast as directed. It’s been a staple side, whether a weeknight dinner or entertaining, ever since. That said, I’m definitely going to try Ms Clarke’s version. You can never have too much of a good thing, and roasted cauliflower is just that.


There are many cauliflower recipes but only one that describes florets as fractal. That’s my favorite part.


I don’t eat meat, so I made this dish without bacon or bacon substitute. The combination of chopped olives (I used kalamata), cumin seeds, and crispy parm (Romano) make an interesting and unique flavor. I made almost as written minus the bacon, and I used Romano cheese rather than Parmesan b/c that’s what we prefer and cilantro rather than parsley b/c that’s what I had in the fridge. Also, for the vinaigrette, I used two tbl EVOO rather 1/4 cup, and it was perfect. Yum!


I like to make this with a Caesar like dressing of garlic, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and olive oil. I made a paste of the garlic and anchovies in a mortar and pestle and then whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil.


I’m vegetarian so I left out the pancetta. Next time I will reduce the amount of oil in the olive dressing and add more garlic and lemon juice. I used Castelvetrano olives and used a veggie peeler on a block of Parm to cover the cauliflower on the last roast. Made brown rice to pair with it, great weeknight meal.


Made as written and this is absolutely magnificent.I had high hopes as someone who loves cauliflower and a nice salty, briney, acidic dish and this dish blew me away.


Castelvetrano pitted and diced go very well with this dish. I tend to use more lemon than the recipe calls for to taste so that it has a little zing to the sauce.


Followed Cheryl’s suggestion to add a can of drained and patted dry garbanzo beans, really good.


Air Fryer works spectacularly well with this recipe.


Made the recipe pretty much as written...but used Romano instead of parmigiano and used Gochujang instead of red pepper flakes. DELICIOUS. Will make this again...and again...

Jaci Sisson

Despite being a struggling beginner in the kitchen, this turned out amazingly delicious. Only problem came when I studied the nutritional information later. 991 calories for each of two servings. Ouch! Not why I want to make vegetables. Based on the copious comments the obvious villain is the half cup of virgin olive oil. Many have said they cut it down. Will try that next time. But oh so, delicious!


I reduced the oil by about 1/3 and it was still much, much too oily. Regret not reducing the salt (though I normally want extra salt). Needs more spice. I wanted to love this, but it will require some changes.


The recipe is brilliant as-is. Disagree with people saying this is confused or too many flavors. Maybe it's a preferential thing, I need that big flavor and anyone who likes cumin (e.g. some Indian, northeastern Chinese cuisine) will probably find themselves adding even more cumin to this. Didn't find oil to be a big issue, though a lot of it did settle on the pan so I wasn't necessarily drinking it all. Though I might have, considering how delicious this dressing is.

Mary Ellen

I used 2-3 tbsp olive oil tossed with the cauliflower and a can of drained, rinsed chickpeas. Made the dressing with the suggested amount lemon juice and another 3 tbsp of olive oil but ended up adding the rest of the juice of one lemon to the finished product. Will add the pancetta earlier next time so it had a little more time to cook. I only had grated parmesan which worked okay. I cooked half a box of rotini and then tossed a half cup of parsley with the vegetables, dressing and pasta.


I adore this recipe. I make it a few times a month—sometimes just for lunch. Substitute whatever you like—leave the meat out if you’re worried about it. If you’re cutting down on oils, use less. It’s really a versatile dish, but there are some true keeper ingredients that make it what it is, like the olives. I would think capers would work here, too.

Janet T

Delicious flavors but too much oil and pancetta grease for us. Next time, I will assembly components separately and omit the olive oil. Recommend!


Really decrease the amount of oil. When made per the recipe, it is so soggy. Use just 1tbsp oil in the dressing. And just enough to coat the roasted vegetables. I added 1 Can drained and rinsed chickpeas to the cauliflower, tossed with oil, and roasted it all together. Served over quinoa. Would be delicious to add some arugula next time. Might do a tiny bit more oil in this case.


Cooking a little longer makes it even better! Follow notes re greatly limiting amount of oil. Also even a small amount of bacon or pancetta would probably go a long way.


I accidentally grew a cauliflower in our community garden plot in Brooklyn-- the plant label said it was a cabbage! Not sure what to do with it. Found and followed this recipe, paying attention to notes about limiting oil. Even a small amount of bacon or pancetta would probably do a lot. This was absolutely delicious.


Enjoyed this dish a lot! The only thing that I would change is adding the Parmesan at the end because it turned a bit rubbery when it came into contact with the olive dressing.

Carla Zanetti

Roasted cauliflower with pancetta, olives and crisp parmesan-made this recipe this evening and it was excellent. Cauliflower can be pretty bland but this recipe really livened it up. I used bacon instead of pancetta as that was what I had on hand. Kudos to Melissa Clark for a great recipe!

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Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan Recipe (2024)


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