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Crispy Pancetta Fusilli & Cheese

Crispy Pancetta Fusilli & Cheese

After making boat loads of pasta with my extruder, I ended up with about 25 oz of beautifully twirled fusilli. The beautiful disposition of pasta is you can combine it with almost anything and end up with something delicious. It is your blank canvas and you hold the brush, little Taste Bud! A canvas you can throw paint at and inevitably you will end with a mini masterpiece. You know, like Rembrandt.

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This recipe is filled with cauliflower. And I hated cauliflower as a kid. We always ate it raw or in a salad with mayonnaise and the combination of smell and texture ignited my gag reflex. As an adult, the discovery of roasted cauliflower has changed my life. What once was a stiff and odorous vegetable has become a beautiful agent for flavor. I feel like Henry Higgins and cauliflower is my Eliza. Finally, the rain in Spain is mainly falling in the plains. Cauliflower browns so nicely in the pan, especially in pancetta fat. Paula Dean would be so proud. Vegetables in animal fat? Is there any other way?

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My family ate this dish like it was the last meal before the zombie apocalypse, also known as “bed time.” The saltiness of the pancetta with the creamy fusilli anointed with the brightness of fresh basil, tomatoes, and sweet balsamic drizzle made us all lick the bowl clean! My kids are great about eating vegetables and we rarely have a battle of wits on getting the vitamins to slide down their gullet, however, I still feel triumphant when I sneak vegetables in a dish. I still am waiting for my trophy from the time I got my youngest to eat a whole brussel sprout and ask for more…I’m sure it’s coming in the mail soon.

This dish is a trophy within itself. You make it, you eat it, you have won. I call it “Progressive Cooking” where everyone gets a trophy! You get a trophy! And you get a trophy! I am half-joking and there is absolutely no statement being made here other than I hope you enjoy this delicious bowl of warmth and love. Even more so, I hope you don’t hog the whole pan to yourself and you share with your loved ones. Otherwise, your kids might pull on your pant leg with puppy dog eyes and say, “Why did you eat that whole skillet of food, Mommy?Daddy? What about me?” In which you might reply, “I left you the corner brownie and a moldy apple in the fridge. Best of luck, kid! Sometimes life is just leftovers.” Lessons all around.

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Crispy Pancetta Fusilli & Cheese

Yield: 8 - 10
prep time: cook time: total time:


  • 25 oz fresh fusilli pasta
  • 8 oz diced pancetta
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 heads of small cauliflower, finely chopped (about 3 cups uncooked)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 24 oz whole milk (or evaporated milk works really well)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 5 oz parmesan, grated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chiffonade or chopped
  • Large handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Balsamic glaze, for drizzling


How to cook Crispy Pancetta Fusilli & Cheese

  1. Cook the pancetta in a skillet on medium-high heat until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel. Use the rendered fat to cook the garlic and cauliflower until it is browned.  If it gets too dry in the pan, add a little olive oil. Set the pancetta and cauliflower aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the fusilli al dente and set aside.  Do not rinse the pasta and leave a little starchy water from the pot so the sauce will stick later. **Do this every time you cook pasta!
  3. Preheat the oven on high broil. 
  4. Make the béchamel by heating 3 tbs of oil or butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Once the flour is fragrant but not burnt, whisk in the evaporated milk or whole milk.   Once it has thickened, add the chicken broth.  Once the mixture is warm, whisk in the paprika, mustard, and salt.  Then you can whisk in the parmesan and 5 oz of the sharp cheddar.  Add fresh cracked pepper to taste.  
  5. Mix together the béchamel, cauliflower, pancetta, and fusilli.  Top with the 3 oz of reserved cheddar and broil on high.  Watch carefully until the cheese on top is bubbly and brown, but you don't want to cook the pasta much longer.  
  6. Plate the pasta and top with fresh tomatoes, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic.  
Created using The Recipes Generator
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