A uniquely Sicilian blend of ingredients pair with steamed cauliflower and pasta to make a wonderful meatless dinner that’s both quick and easy to prepare.
Anchovies, saffron, raisins and pine nuts are classic ingredients in Sicilian cuisine, and although combining them may sound a bit unusual, the flavors are subtle and blend together beautifully.
How To Make Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower
To make the sauce for this pasta dish, you begin by sautéing red onion and garlic in olive oil, then adding chopped anchovy fillets.
The anchovies will literally “melt” into the onion and garlic mixture as they cook, providing a fabulously rich but not fishy flavor that serves as the base for the sauce.
To that you add tomatoes, saffron and raisins and let it simmer for just a few minutes while the pasta cooks.
Toasted pine nuts (pignoli) and grated Pecorino (Italian sheep’s milk cheese) or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese along with chopped fresh parsley and/or basil are the finishing touches that complete the dish.
It’s worth noting that the most authentic Sicilian versions of this dish do not call for tomatoes. Instead they use either a combination of broth and additional olive oil, or just a larger quantity of olive oil in order to coat the pasta and cauliflower.
We’ve also seen variations that use broccoli or broccolini instead of cauliflower, and some that use sardines instead of anchovies. If you’ve tried any of these versions, we’d love to hear about it so please leave a comment.
More recipes for pasta with cauliflower:Print
Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower and Saffron
Traditional Sicilian ingredients like anchovies, pine nuts, saffron and raisins make Sicilian pasta with cauliflower a delicious choice for an easy meatless dinner.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Main Dish
- Cuisine: Italian
- 10 ounces pasta (shells, rotini, penne)
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Olive oil
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
Core the cauliflower, separate into florets and place them in a large sauté pan. Season with salt and pepper and add 1/4-inch water to the pan.
Place the pan over medium-high heat, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a knife, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Wipe the pan dry, add the pine nuts and shake the pan over medium heat until they’re lightly toasted, 1/2 to 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Note: Watch the pine nuts carefully and keep them moving in the pan as they burn very easily.
Coat the pan with a small amount of olive oil, separate the onion into rings and sauté over medium heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the anchovies and cook for another minute, then add the garlic.
Continue cooking, stirring often, until the garlic is soft and fragrant and the anchovies have “melted,” 3 to 4 minutes longer.
Stir in the tomatoes, saffron and raisins, cover and simmer gently while you cook and drain the pasta, 8 to 9 minutes.
Return the cauliflower florets to the tomato sauce, heat for a minute or two, then add the pine nuts and parsley and combine with the pasta.
Plate individual servings and top with grated cheese.