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A special yet nice-and-easy pan fried cauliflower recipe with brown butter, hazelnuts, sage, and pears adapted from chef Andrew Carmellini.

pan fried cauliflower with brown butter, hazelnuts, sage, and pear, adapted from chef Andrew Carmellini, in a bowl
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Why we love this recipe

This beautiful, autumnal pan-fried cauliflower recipe first entered my culinary repertoire as a Thanksgiving side dish. Its flavors work so beautifully with the traditional holiday meal, and its elevated vibe belies its simplicity. But it’s equally feasible as an everyday dish.

It’s got:

  • Tender, lightly caramelized cauliflower
  • Pops of woodsy fresh sage
  • The low-key crunch of toasted hazelnuts
  • Bright, crisp, lightly sweet slices of Bosc pear
  • A blanket of nutty brown butter — need I say more?

And it all comes together quickly and easily.

I first published this recipe, adapted from Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman’s Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food, here and on Serious Eats way back in 2009. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Start with a medium-sized head of cauliflower. You’ll want about 1 1/2 pounds of florets after you’ve trimmed away the leaves and core, so start with a whole head that’s about two pounds or a little more. The precise quantity isn’t super-important, but that should give you an idea of what you’re looking for. Seek out freshness with nice firm, off-white, unblemished florets.
  • I’ve shown the process to use when starting with whole, raw hazelnuts. You could start with blanched ones instead if you like, and skip the step where you remove the skins. They add a beautiful crunch and mellow, rich sweetness to this dish. You can chop them with a regular chef’s knife if you don’t have (or don’t feel like hauling out) a food processor.
  • Bosc pear is bright, crisp, and firm when ripe. You’ll slice it nice and thin so the beautiful shape melds right into the dish as a whole.
  • Fresh sage contributes a beautifully complex, earthy flavor and mild astringency.
  • Use a really good-quality butter if you can. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a pan fried cauliflower with brown butter and hazelnuts. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll toast, skin, and chop the hazelnuts.
  2. Brown the butter.
  3. Pan fry the cauliflower, sage, and chopped hazelnuts.
  4. Stir in the thinly sliced pear. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Yes. Feel free to make the whole dish earlier in the day, up to the point of stirring in the pear. Reheat right in the pan or in the microwave. Slice and incorporate the pear shortly before serving.

Leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. Reheat in the microwave, or repurpose to breathe a whole new life into them. Try stirring them into some al dente rigatoni, layering with ricotta, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella, and baking until hot and bubbly.

More favorite cauliflower recipes

pan fried cauliflower with brown butter, hazelnuts, sage, and pear, adapted from chef Andrew Carmellini, in a bowl

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Andrew Carmellini's Cauliflower Recipe Brown Butter Hazelnuts Sage Pear 780 | Umami Girl
4.74 from 15 votes

Pan Fried Cauliflower with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
A special yet nice-and-easy pan fried cauliflower recipe with brown butter, hazelnuts, sage, and pears adapted from chef Andrew Carmellini.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (60 grams) whole hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 1 1/2 pounds/(680 grams) of florets)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, julienned
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium, about 1/2 pound/(227 grams) firm-ripe Bosc pear
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley, optional

Instructions 

  • Set heavy 12-inch skillet that has a lid (which you'll use later) over medium heat. Pour in hazelnuts. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until skins have turned dark brown in spots and begun to split, about 15 minutes.
  • While hot, carefully pour hazelnuts into center of clean dishtowel. Rub together to remove skins. When hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, finely chop and set aside.
  • Wipe out skillet to remove any hazelnut bits. Set over medium-high heat. Add butter and cook until bubbly and beginning to turn brown.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add cauliflower, sage, chopped hazelnuts, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower has caramelized in spots, about 10 minutes.
  • Pour in two tablespoons water, cover pan, and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking for a few more minutes, until cauliflower is as tender as you'd like. Uncover pan and simmer off any remaining liquid, then remove from heat.
  • Quarter and core pear and slice thinly. Add pear, along with parsley, if using, to cauliflower mixture and stir to distribute. Serve warm.

Notes

  1. I've shown the process to use when starting with whole, raw hazelnuts. You could start with blanched ones instead if you like, and skip the step where you remove the skins. They add a beautiful crunch and mellow, rich sweetness to this dish. You can chop them with a regular chef's knife if you don't have (or don't feel like hauling out) a food processor.
  2. Use a really good-quality butter if you can. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn't have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.
  3. Start with a medium-sized head of cauliflower. You'll want about 1 1/2 pounds of florets after you've trimmed away the leaves and core, so start with a whole head that's about two pounds or a little more. The precise quantity isn't super-important, but that should give you an idea of what you're looking for. Seek out freshness with nice firm, off-white, unblemished florets.
  4. Fresh sage contributes a beautifully complex, earthy flavor and mild astringency.
  5. Bosc pear is bright, crisp, and firm when ripe. You'll slice it nice and thin so the beautiful shape melds right into the dish as a whole.
  6. Feel free to make the whole dish earlier in the day, up to the point of stirring in the pear. Reheat right in the pan or in the microwave. Slice and incorporate the pear shortly before serving.
  7. Leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. Reheat in the microwave, or repurpose to breathe a whole new life into them. Try stirring them into some al dente rigatoni, layering with ricotta, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella, and baking until hot and bubbly.
Adapted from Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food.

Nutrition

Calories: 254kcal, Carbohydrates: 12.9g, Protein: 4.2g, Fat: 22.1g, Fiber: 4.1g

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

Additional Info

Course: Sides
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.74 from 15 votes (15 ratings without comment)

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