Cauliflower Rigatoni at California Modern

At California Modern, we celebrate San Diego through our ever-changing menu. Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients are the heart of our kitchen. Read on as chef du cuisine Jonathan Bautista shares his perspective on an outstanding new dish to try:

Cauliflower Rigatoni

"Cauliflower is one of those vegetables many people hated as a kid and love as an adult. This was the case for me, but cauliflower grows everywhere in California so I began to appreciate it eventually. Our main provider, Chino Farms grows a beautiful spread of sprouting cauliflower color varietals which we use in this dish. Kong Thao Farms in central California also produces really vibrant and delicious bouquets that our local produce vendor picks up for our daily use.

I really enjoy making pasta dishes that are purely vegetarian that relate to the non-vegetarian. For this dish, I dehydrated white cauliflower and broke it into a fine powder. We incorporate a ratio of that powder into the flour we use to make a cauliflower-flavored pasta dough. In-house, we extrude the rigatoni out of our pasta machine and cut then cut it into desired shapes.

For the sauce, we make a classic Mornay (cheese sauce) but add a good amount of cauliflower to reinforce it as the main focus of the dish.

The best way to eat cauliflower for me is to cut it in bite size pieces and roast it really hard in a cast iron pan until it is borderline charred. That’s exactly what we do. We pile the cauliflower rigatoni, cauliflower mornay, and hard-roasted cauliflower florets together into a bowl and cover it with a ton of ricotta salata, cheddar cheese, sourdough bread crumbs, pine nut pesto, and various herbs. It’s pretty delicious."

Wine Pairing

California Modern general manager Matt Strickler: "Cauliflower Rigatoni seems like a dish that is pretty straightforward but actually expresses a fair amount of complexity. The flavor profiles are, for me, ideal when approaching the idea of wine pairings. There is enough vegetal character and nuance to lend itself to a medium-bodied white wine, as well as enough unctuousness and depth to be paired with a lighter style red.

On my pairing list I like to use a Chianti Classico Riserva from Tenuta di Arceno, vintage 2013. If you prefer to pair with white wine, consider our Garganega by the glass, La Cappucina Suave. It's a lively bright white wine with soft citrus and tropical notes and a tremendous mouthfeel. Light in body, Suaves typically will not overwhelm cuisine and this wine paired with cauliflower will highlight some of the savory qualities underlying its earthy nature."

With our nightly dinner menus, we strive to provide a flavor-forward dining adventure for guests to encounter a sense of place, a sense of time and an element of surprise. Come join the conversation and dine with us a California Modern.

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