October 31, 2008

Tastes of Sicily- Pasta with Cauliflower

The markets are GREEN in Palermo this time of year

Sicilian "green" cauliflower getting a ride

Tuscan olives, usually picked green to press for oil

Fall is in full swing as I returned to Tuscany from Sicily.

I gave my neighbors some of my oil from Olio Verde
they traded me some fresh olives to cure.

I do a salt-only technique which I will write up later
when I get more olives. My husband adores these hard to find cured olives
so I make a huge jar of them yearly.
We look for abbandoned olive groves and harvest the olives when they are black.

The secrets to great Italian food are the great ingredients
celebrating the seasons with what is right from the field.

Italy's way with vegetables makes anyone LOVE them.
Traditionally, vegetables are twice-cooked.
The first time to COOK them,
the second time is to FLAVOR them.

The added flavor from garlic and olive oil, with or without chili pepper
is one of my favorites as a side dish,
but works expecially well as a pasta course.

On my recent trip to Sicily, the incredible colored cauliflowers were all over the markets
being sold from trucks on the side of the road
and we even saw then packed as passengers into the back of a car!

Palermo uses fresh breadcrumbs on everything
even in place of parmesan cheese.

here is what I made inspired by the trip.

Pasta with cauliflower and toasted breadcrumbs.
Pasta con cavolfiore e pangrattato

Boil cauliflower in salted water until really tender.
Remove from water, save water to boil pasta.

While the pasta is boiling, saute a large clove of garlic, sliced, in extra virgin olive oil
I added a couple of oil-packed anchovies and a couple of tiny, spicey, bird's eye chili's.

When the garlic is just starting to get golden, add the cauliflower,
and break-up into smaller pieces.

When the pasta is done, saute in pan with the cauliflower mix
and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

To make the toasted breadcrumbs:

Sicilians have a salted bread they buy in whole loaves.
When it is getting older, they take out the centers and put into a food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs.

I used regular breadcrumbs I find here in Tuscany and sauteed them in a skillet with garlic, olive oil, salt and some herbs. I cooked until they changed color.

Wonderful earthy taste and texure to the dish.

Then a little Tuscan lasagna went into the oven for another day, I was having cooking withdrawl!

Making Tuscan Sugo is such a fabulous thing to do on a blustery day!


  1. just found your blog and i am enchanted... i spent a month in tuscany this spring, by reading you daily i can relive the fun forever~

  2. Mrs. Jay8:20 AM

    I LOVE pasta with cauliflower! It's a staple in our house during this time of year. I actually cook the cauliflower in the same pot as the pasta. About mid-way through the pasta's cooking time, I throw the cauliflower into the same pot. Both finish cooking at the same time, and I just throw them both into the pan with the oil, garlic, and chili. I do toss in about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano, though, before serving with the breadcrumbs. This dish is also great with broccoli! Here in Sicily, they seem to use broccoli and cauliflower interchangeably.

  3. Mrs Jay- Usually do boil the veggies directly in the water with the pasta, but this time was to have boiled cauliflower... and use SOME for the pasta sauce.

    In liguria they also do string beans and tiny potato cubes in the water and then dress the pasta with pesto.

    In northern Italy, cabbage and potatoes with buckwheat pasta, and then layer with melted butter, with sage and parmesan cheese and thinly sliced Fontina! that sticks to your ribs when it is cold outside! ( PIzzocheri is the pasta)

  4. Perfect timing-I just bought cauliflower yesterday to do with pasta!

  5. Love that picture of the cauliflower-filled cars! I'm making your recipe tonight...

  6. Ciao, Diva: I know this recipe was posted awhile ago, but I just came across it. I cook this meal every couple of months with anchovies as you suggested...may I be so bold as to suggest to a Diva this wonderful addition to this dish? Add some pignoli to it. A great flavor and mouthfeel. N

  7. Nanette- actually I add the traditional pinenut and currants- which is used so often that in the markets in palermo they sell them in bags already mixed!!!

    In Florence we do the pinenut and raisins with our twice cooked spinach.

    Pinenuts make everything better!