As I have announced in my Vitello Tonnato post, I have decided to dedicate one post a week to Italian cooking, focussing each time on a different region. There are so many fantastic traditional recipes in Italy that it can be a daunting job to choose from them, but I am having lots of fun and I love to help spread “real” Italian cooking out to the world! This week’s region is Sicily. I know I have already published a few Sicilian recipes in the past (for a list of those and all the other regional recipes already published, click here), but here goes another one! I have decided to make pasta with cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins and saffron. This pasta in Sicilian is called “pasta chi vruocculi arriminati” which literally means pasta with stirred cauliflower, because you need to mix the pasta with the sauce in the pan before serving it. The addition of saffron, pine nuts and raisins in savoury dishes is a classic of Sicilian cooking and it can be attributed to the Arab influence that is so evident in Sicily due to centuries of Arab (and then Spanish) domination. This is a typical dish from Palermo and it is my dad’s family recipe. It is best eaten with short pasta and served with “muddica” (toasted breadcrumbs), instead of cheese.
Ingredients (for 4 persons):
600 gms – 1.3 lbs white cauliflower, chopped in big chunks
1 ½ tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch saffron
1 small onion, chopped
6-8 tbsp breadcrumbs, toasted
400 gms short pasta (I used Garofalo’s sigarette, but penne, tortiglioni or rigatoni are perfect for this too)
Bring a pot of salty water to a boil and add the chopped cauliflower. Let it cook for a few minutes, until soft. Remove it with a slotted spoon and keep aside. Retain the cooking liquid as you can use it to cook your pasta in it. This way the flavour of the cauliflower will transfer to the pasta and the final dish will be tastier.
Put the chopped onion, pine nuts, raisins and extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent.
Now add the anchovies, remove the pan from the fire and break the anchovies with a wooden spoon. Stir well until they melt in the sauce. Make sure to do this away from the fire to prevent the anchovies from burning (burnt anchovies are really bitter).
Now add the cooked cauliflower and mash it with the wooden spoon.
Add a pinch of saffron and some of the cauliflower cooking liquid.
Mix well to make sure the saffron is well combined. Add salt if required.
To toast the breadcrumbs, simply put them in a non stick frying pan and cook them on the stove on a low fire, stirring constantly, until brown.
Put the pot with the broccoli water back on the fire (you might have to add some more water and hence adjust the salt) and use it to cook your pasta.
Cook the pasta following the steps on How to cook pasta “al dente” in the Techniques page of this site, but drain it 1 minute before it is cooked as it will finish cooking together with the sauce. Put the drained pasta in the frying pan with the cauliflower sauce and mix well while cooking it on a slow flame for 1 or 2 minutes.
Serve with the toasted breadcrumbs on the top.
Also, I wanted to thank everyone who has buzzed my recipes on Foodbuzz! Manu’s Menu has been in the Top 9 three time in the last few weeks with Frittatine alla Parmigiana, Moo Shu with Chinese Steamed Pancakes and Home-made Hoisin Sauce and Vichyssoise! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH! 🙂
And last, but not least… HAPPY DIWALI to all my Indian readers! 🙂
This dish looks wonderful. It is interesting how the influence of other cultures plays out in food. This was a great post, and I love your idea about featuring dishes from different regions of Italy. I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series!
You deserve all the Top 9s! And I see many more in your future! Great looking pasta dish…once again 🙂
Giulietta | Alterkitchen says
Che bontà!!!! I want a dish, now! Actually, I bookmark this and than I’ll make it! 🙂
I love how some Sicilian pasta sauces have raisins and pine nuts, these elements just make a dish so different to the regular bolognese that we’re so exposed to. Yum!
Evvai con un super piatto di pasta! Anche in Calabria ci sono pietanze arriminate ma il tocco siculo è inconfondibile!
I’ve never tried any Sicilian dishes before, but this is really tempting me. I think the addition of pine nuts, raisins and saffron is a beautiful touch to the pasta.
Time to get myself some saffron :)!
Deee-licious! And your photos are always so beautiful!
Looks great! I had no idea of the Arab influence on Sicilian cuisine!!!
Tina (PinayInTexas) says
Never tried nor heard of this pasta dish…but with the cauliflower and anchovies, I bet it’s good!
Btw, congratulations on all the well deserved Top 9’s! You’re doing so good so I’m sure there’s more to come!
Eva@ kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com says
What an unusual combination Manu; I had no idea saffron was used in Italian cooking. I really like how creamy the cauliflower looks.
amelia from z tasty life says
Manu: la adoro questa pasta: l’ho appena fatta recentemente. Ma non avevo pensato di aggiungere lo zafferano, che la rende cosi’ bella dorata. Continua questa serie stupenda…per favore!!!
Joan Nova says
I love the mix of sweet and savory in Sicilian dishes and have often used it in my cooking. I love the addition of saffron here and plan to try it…soon!
WOW! Cauliflower, raisins and anchovies! You certainly have my attention. As always, you certainly make your recipes irresistible and a much have. I’m not a real anchovy fan, but my tastebuds have been known to change. 🙂
Reem | Simply Reem says
WOW Manu this looks really delicious..
I must a very interesting combination of ingredients…….
Yumm dear, I will sure make this soon.
That’s pretty unusual pasta recipe. But pine nuts, anchovies, raisins and cauliflower sound like a very interesting combination. I can’t even imagine the taste 🙂
Anna @The Littlest Anchovy says
what a wonderful combination of flavours! Congratulations on all the Top 9’s!
Very interesting combination it looks delicious, love the pine nuts and raisins addition. Congrats on all your Top 9
Katherine Martinelli says
I love this series – such a wonderful idea!! To often Italian food is all lumped together (by me included!) and it’s nice to get a sense of the wide regional differences. This dish looks so wonderful, I will definitely be trying it soon!
Cauliflower and saffron! Oh me, oh my! I want this RIGHT AWAY! It sounds (and looks) so amazing Manu! YUM!!!!
I make something similar with broccoli and I am trying to explain Amricans that it taste much better than blanched undercooked broccoli, but they don’t believe me 🙁
Manu, this is very interesting combination….sounds absolutely delicious:)thank you….
This looks good Manu and the color is so pretty from the saffron.
C. Brown says
Could one substitute almonds or walnuts for the pine nuts. They’re not too hard to get any more, but expensive. Plus, I already have the other two.
C. Brown says
Oh, and I forgot. I’ve seen a version with broccoli, too, in with the cauliflower. Have you seen that variation and/or would you know how to incorporate broccoli in the dish as well?
Hi! I have never seen a version with broccoli mixed with cauliflower, though we do make pasta with broccoli (alone) as well: http://www.manusmenu.com/pasta-with-creamy-broccoli-and-pine-nut-sauce
You can substitute the pine nuts with almonds as Sicilians use almonds all the time and I am sure they would go really well with this dish. 🙂
Let me know how you like it!
C. Brown says
I tried it without using broccoli as well (as in this recipe http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000146.html). It really reminded me of really good Persian food. And the almonds were fine – although the pine nuts definitely would have been better.